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CBS, Sears To Air Hi-Def March Madness

CBS announced it reached a sponsorship deal with Sears to broadcast the 2002 NCAA men’s basketball Final Four championship games in HDTV, with expanded regional action.

For CBS, the telecast will mark the third consecutive year it has made the games available to digital affiliates in the 1080i HDTV broadcast format. The production will employ unified production equipment, meaning the same cameras will be used to shoot the games in HDTV format, while the signal will be down converted to standard definition for analog stations.

In prior years, Thomson and Mitsubishi had sponsored the HDTV production of the event.

Final Four coverage is scheduled to begin at Atlanta’s Georgia Dome on Saturday, March 30, followed by the national championship game on Monday, April 1, at 9 p.m. E.T.

Regional action begins on March 15 with four first-round games from the MCI Center in Washington, D.C., followed by two games on Sunday, March 17. Also slated are two games from Lexington, KY., on Thursday, March 21, followed by one game on March 23.

CBS will make the first eight games available in HDTV to affiliates on a regional basis. The regional final, national semi-final and national championship will be provided to all digital CBS affiliates.

Markets receiving the regional games will be announced once the match-ups have been decided.

CBS said it expects portions of the coverage to be carried by its 46 owned and affiliated stations, covering approximately 60 percent of the country.