With Friday's victory over Alabama, the University of Kentucky delivered a major opportunity for a Lexington television station unaccustomed to broadcasting Cats' games.
ABC affiliate WTVQ (Channel 36), which has long trailed market leaders WLEX (Channel 18) and WKYT (Channel 27) in local news ratings, will broadcast a UK basketball game Saturday for the first time in ages.
Because of a 15-year deal the Southeastern Conference struck with ESPN in 2008, ABC will broadcast the semifinals and finals of the SEC Tournament. In years past, the tournament was broadcast solely in the Lexington market on WKYT, which has the rights to air UK games that aren't picked up by larger networks in the complicated hierarchy of basketball broadcasting.
"It's just huge for our station. It's a great stage for us to showcase our talent and our product," said WTVQ General Manager Chris Aldridge, whose station has planned major coverage prior to the games in an effort to get Wildcat fans to sample its news anchors.
The station will air a preview special from noon to 1 p.m. Saturday and at the same time Sunday assuming UK makes its way to the finals. On Saturday, the station is also going to air a special one-hour newscast after the second semifinal ends, though UK will play in the first semifinal.
The station is sending its top anchors to Nashville to present the newscast from there and will also have staffers in the Lexington studio for additional coverage.
Aldridge said he expects some viewers will tune to WKYT since it has aired the prior tournament games but then will find their way to WTVQ.
And while WKYT won't be airing the last games of the SEC Tournament, as a CBS affiliate it will exclusively air the NCAA Tournament, which has the staff there ecstatic.
WKYT News Director Robert Thomas said that with UK's incredible season and the chance to go all the way, "it'll be phenomenal for us."