CBS denies reports of selling off NCAA games
NEW YORK — CBS Sports is going out of its way to quash reports that it plans to sell some NCAA Men’s College Basketball Tournament games to a cable network.The reaction from network officials surfaced in the wake of the record $6.2 billion shelled out by CBS to extend its current National Collegiate Athletic Assn. contract by 11 years, through 2013 (Daily Variety, Nov. 19). As outlined by Sean McManus, president of CBS Sports, there are three reasons why CBS may give the back of its hand to cable, despite the fact that at least four cable networks (ESPN, TNN, FX and Showtime) would jump at the chance to carry a portion of the tournament schedule as a supplement to CBS’ carriage:
- CBS’ owned and affiliated TV stations would scream bloody murder because they can chalk up premium prices for the two minutes an hour each gets to sell locally for the high-rated college basketball games, which attract massive quantities of Madison Avenue’s favorite demographic: young males. Cable coverage during the first three rounds of the annual March Tournament could cut into the Nielsen ratings of the broadcast network and its stations and siphon off some of their ad revenues.
- By permitting DirecTV to offer its subscribers a package of 34 NCAA Tournament games for a lump-sum retail price of $39 in March 1999, CBS helped to dispel criticism that it’s hogging of all of the tournament games was not serving the fans. Before the DirecTV deal, college basketball junkies bellyached throughout the ’90s that CBS made consistently wrong choices when it cut from game to game in the early rounds during periods when as many as four games would overlap each other.
- Within the next two or three years, CBS O&Os and affiliates throughout the country expect to begin using their Federal Communications Commission-mandated digital spectrum to offer both high-definition TV signals in primetime and four spinoff channels for additional programming in other dayparts. It would be relatively easy for the CBS stations to employ these extra channels as outlets for the concurrent NCAA games.