The following is a guest post by Chris Jones.
Count another bastion of major network television among the endangered species. CBS and Turner Sports recently announced that TBS will broadcast the NCAA men’s basketball tournament semifinal games in 2014 and 2015. The Final Four always had been broadcast on major network television prior to the latest agreement.
The Final Four joins “Monday Night Football” and the college football bowl system (minus one game in 2012) that have made the transition to cable (or satellite) television. According to Sports Illustrated, cable subscription fees are the underlying factor that several major sporting events are cutting ties with the Big Four television networks (ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox). Those over-the-air networks don’t charge viewers broadcast fees.
While traditionalists may lament the loss of another sports broadcast entity from the Big Four, the significance of the transition is minimal. Only 5.1 percent of American households had only over-the-air television in 2012.
As new subscribers choose the right TV service for their in-home entertainment — whether it’s a cable company such as Comcast, satellite TV or internet streaming — they will have no problems making the transition from watching the Final Four on CBS to watching on TBS. College basketball fans already may have anticipated the Final Four moving away from original network TV. In 2010, CBS and Turner Sports entered into a 14-year exclusive media rights partnership with the NCAA to broadcast the NCAA Tournament, beginning in 2011.
TBS and its sister stations, TNT and TruTV, began sharing early round coverage of the tournament with CBS. According to the NCAA.com, the 2013 edition of the “Big Dance” had the highest rating that tournament has had in 19 years with 10.7 million total viewers. That was an 11-percent increase from 2012, according to the Nielsen ratings.
Sports fans didn't require an excessive amount of time to get used to the fact that "Monday Night Football" was moving from ABC to ESPN in 2006. And according to 2012 TV ratings, TBS is actually in more households than ESPN. The Final Four transition also should get college basketball fans ready for the rotation of the Final Four games and the national championship game between CBS and TBS.
CBS will broadcast the national championship game in 2014 and 2015. In 2016, TBS will broadcast both the semifinals and the national championship game. CBS will handle all Final Four duties in 2017. Sports Illustrated adds that TBS also will share broadcast duties with CBS of regional finals games. Previously, CBS covered all the regional finals telecasts.
The CBS-Turner deal with the NCAA runs through 2024.