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Ali News Dominates TV Networks Saturday

The death and life of boxing and civil rights champion and Muhammad Ali took over the airwaves almost as soon as his death was confirmed Saturday.

MSNBC said it broke the news of Ali’s death on air at 12:16 a.m. ET with live coverage anchored by Brian Williams.

Williams was joined by Matt Lauer on the phone and Mike Lupica in the studio.

ESPN began its wall-to-wall coverage of Ali’s death at 12:28 E.T.  A 10-minute obituary by Jeremy Schaap ran about a minute later.

Coverage appeared an all ESPN platforms in multiple languages, including international versions in India, China, Brazil and Argentina.

Over the next 12 hours, over a dozen guests appears including analyst Teddy Atlas and Floyd Mayweather

ESPN shifted its coverage of a soccer match between France and Scotland at 3 p.m. to ESPNews so that SportsCenter could coverage the Ali family’s press conference live.

“We are sad to hear of the passing of Muhammad Ali,” ESPN President John Skipper said. “However, we revel in the memory of his athletic excellence in the ring, we recollect with pleasure the charm of the charismatic young man from Louisville who would shock the world and we celebrate the dramatic achievement of a champion of civil rights who changed the world. In many ways, he was truly the greatest of all time.”

BET pre-empted its programming starting at noon to pay tribute to Ail.  BET News’ documentary Muhammad Ali: The People Champ aired across BET, Centric BET UK, BET France and BET Africa.

"Champion, catalyst for change, poet, statesman, humanitarian, father, husband, brother, friend. One of a kind. The world has never seen before or since a person like Muhammad Ali. He has left an indelible mark on our lives that will pass on from generation to generation." said Debra Lee, Chairman and CEO, BET Networks "Our prayers go out to his family. We will remember him and miss him dearly."

On CNN Newsroom, Fredricka Whitfield interviewed former heavyweight champion George Foreman, who was knocked out by a rope-a-doping Ali during the famous Rumble in the Jungle.

Forman, speaking by phone, recalled that during the fight “I hit him hard in the third round and he looked at me as if to say I’m not going to take this!  Then he said no way he's going to slug it out with me and I whaled on him.  Then the bell rang and he looked at me as if to say I made it!  And I thought oh, my god, he made it, and I knew I was in trouble then and the water had just gotten deep.

And then around the sixth, seventh round, as he said, he started whispering "is that all you got, George?"  and believe me, that’s scary because that was all I had,” Foreman said.

Earlier in the day on its New Day Weekend show, CNN had on boxers Evander Holyfield and Manny Pacquiao

Spike said it planned an encore broadcast of its original documentary Facing Ali at 9 p.m.

On Sunday, NBC’s Meet the Press will feature Bob Costas and Bryant Gumbel talking about Ali.

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.