Posted May 07, 2013

TBS will now air national semifinals in 2014, ’15

NCAA Tournament, TV
TBS will be involved with the Final Four two years earlier than expected. (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

TBS will be involved with the Final Four two years earlier than expected. (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

In a tweak to the original agreement when they partnered together on a new 14-year broadcast deal for the NCAA tournament, CBS and Turner announced Tuesday that the 2014 and 2015 national semifinals would be aired on TBS rather than CBS.

Originally, all three games of the Final Four were supposed to be shown on CBS in those two years before they moved to TBS in 2016 and alternated each year after that through 2024. Now, TBS has exercised an option in the contract to get involved with the Final Four two years earlier. As part of that process, CBS is being allowed to retain the championship game for the next two seasons, as what executives involved termed a “transition.”

“We both win in this scenario,” CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus said during a conference call, according to the Associated Press.

TBS also will now be involved in coverage of the regional finals. Previously, CBS televised all four of them.

The reaction to the news, at least on Twitter, was predictably grumpy — another sports institution gets moved to a cable channel, and that cable channel isn’t ESPN — but that reaction is probably misguided. As of last summer, TBS was actually available in more homes than ESPN and they have done a nice job carrying a significant tournament load (at least the game broadcasts) for three years already. It may also mean a shakeup of Final Four broadcast teams, with many preferring someone like Marv Albert or Kevin Harlan on the play-by-play call instead of the more conservative Jim Nantz.

This is just the latest piece in the well-established trend of major sports properties moving to cable. Affordability was the reason CBS partnered up with Turner on the current deal to begin with, in shades of when ABC had to give up a money-losing Monday Night Football property that was eagerly gobbled up by sister company ESPN for multiple times the cost. Cable subscription fees, which over-the-air networks don’t collect, are a driving factor in who can afford these rights and why prices for them keep climbing. As long as all cable viewers, regardless of interest in sports, continue to subsidize sports watchers, this is how things are going to work. Turner, which already had a very significant stake in this arrangement (explaining the ample use of NBA analysts in studio on their coverage and TruTV being utilized), can now use these additional properties as even more leverage for subscription fee increases.

Ratings for the 2013 tournament were the strongest in over a decade. The first weekend drew an average 5.8, despite splitting games across CBS, TBS, TNT and lesser-known (and less available) TruTV. The second weekend averaged a 7.0 on CBS and TBS.

For a viewer, the experience won’t really change. If you’re a basketball fan (college or pro), you know where TBS is on the dial. We’ll see what it means in terms of game presentation, announcers, studio hosts, etc., but when it comes down to it, you’re still watching a very professional broadcast of one of sports’ most esteemed events, and it will be easily accessible in over 100 million homes.

9 comments
Cool
Cool

What, I have to pay for cable?  My dial up modem to get on that thar enter net has been a working jus fine.  Next thing ya nose they going to be talkin bout being ables to be a seeing who you talking to on the teli phone.

WilyCoyoteSuperGenius
WilyCoyoteSuperGenius

Well, they lost my eyeballs. Sorry NCAA - I am not paying for cable so I can watch your games.

L7
L7

How is the negative reaction 'misguided' considering that an ever increasing number of us are no longer subscribing to cable? And in terms of homes with access, why compare TBS to ESPN? Shouldn’t you be comparing TBS to CBS?

Anyway, TWC and its brethren keep moving programming to cable to drive subscribership, yet the number of people subscribing to cable keeps declining (by 1.5% in 2011, according to Nielsen). We'll see who blinks first.


Jo2
Jo2

This story is much much bigger than who will be the commentators in the future. We are losing our freedoms and our pursuit of happiness. Broadcasters make billions in profits while using the public airwaves for free. In return, they are supposed to provide programming that fulfills community needs. Instead, lobbyists have successfully fought to make it easier for broadcast companies to gobble up even more free airspace while doing less to serve the public. 

Access to high-speed Internet service — also known as broadband — has become a basic public necessity, just like water or electricity. Yet despite its importance, broadband access in the United States is far from universal. Millions of Americans still stand on the wrong side of the "digital divide," unable to tap into the political, economic and social resources of the Web. Meanwhile, cable and phone companies — which hold virtual monopolies over the infrastructure of the Internet — often refuse to build out high-speed broadband to regions that need it most, and actively seek to block communities from seeking their own broadband solutions. 

Consolidation has contributed to tough times for the newspaper industry. When the industry was swimming in profits in the 1990s, big media companies used 14–27 percent profit margins to buy up other properties rather than invest in the quality of their existing products or innovate for the future. Now they want to make it possible for a given company to own a newspaper and a broadcast station in the same market.

The public is losing its control of free media in the same way the communists in Russia eliminated free journalism there. We need to get our heads away from our mobile phones and take action to regain free media and a free independent press.

Mutt
Mutt

Did I miss the part of this glowingly positive article about sports being taken off of free TV where the author mentions that TBS and Sports Illustrated are both owned by Time Warner?

Vinny Cordoba
Vinny Cordoba

Hallelujah. Anybody has got to be better than Nantz and Kellogg.

Ray1950
Ray1950

I'll take Marv Albert over Nantz/Kellogg eight days a week.

RandallAllen
RandallAllen

"For a viewer, the experience won’t really change."  Not quite an accurate statement.  For those of us that don't take cable in order to save money, we see our sports choices diminished once again.  Now, we're relegated to our computers to see the game after the fact, just like this year and last year.  ::sigh::

nfinitwordsfoto
nfinitwordsfoto

@Jo2 Watching college basketball is not what anyone intended when they drafted the Bill of Rights.