WOLO-TV Channel 25 will begin carrying SEC football and basketball games in the fall.
The new, multiyear deal gives Columbia’s ABC affiliate the SEC’s noon Saturday football game and a Saturday doubleheader of conference basketball games, Chris Turner, ESPN’s senior director for SEC programming, said Monday.
The contract includes plans to air more USC men’s basketball conference games on broadcast channels and to add an SEC women’s basketball game of the week.
SEC games have aired for years on WIS-TV Channel 10, an NBC affiliate — first as part of Raycom Sports and more recently as part of the SEC Network, in partnership with ESPN. WIS’s deal with the SEC Network expired after last season. WIS wanted to keep the broadcasts, station general manager Donita Todd said.
Turner said WOLO was not selected just because ESPN and ABC are both owned by Disney.
The new arrangement means ACC basketball games will go to another Columbia-area station after airing on WOLO and WKTC-TV Channel 63 in recent years. There was no word on which station will carry games from the conference that includes Clemson.
“Columbia is an SEC town,” WOLO general manager Chris Bailey said.
The deal will give WOLO “wall-to-wall” college football coverage from noon until past midnight on Saturdays, starting with the SEC contest, followed by ABC’s national game and ending with the station’s “Gamecock Saturday Night” highlight show, Bailey said.
CBS and ESPN will continue to carry SEC games — getting first choices of conference football and basketball matchups.
ACC football games are carried in Columbia on WACH-TV Channel 57. Efforts to reach WACH, the region’s Fox affiliate, or officials with the ACC Network on Monday were unsuccessful. WIS would be interested in the ACC broadcasts, Todd said.
WOLO will pick up men’s basketball coverage when the SEC season begins in January, airing a Saturday doubleheader, which will include the Gamecocks if their game is not selected by ESPN.
The deal includes USC’s Wednesday night basketball contests, though WKTC will carry those games because WOLO cannot interrupt ABC weeknight programming, Bailey said. The ESPN networks will carry Gamecocks games airing on Tuesday or Thursday nights.
In addition, WOLO and WKTC will carry an SEC women’s game of the week at 2 p.m. Sundays when conference play starts.
Some basketball games, particularly those not involving South Carolina, could be shown on WOLO’s digital channel, 25.4, Turner and Bailey said. The digital channel is available only on major cable systems, including Time Warner.
That was an issue with some USC basketball games last season. WIS did not have a broadcast partner, which meant satellite TV and U-verse customers and some cable customers were unable to watch select midweek games that WIS shifted to its digital channel.