×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Final Four Makes Fast Break to Cable

With rights fees skyrocketing, CBS will share NCAA basketball championship weekend with TBS

The NCAA men’s basketball Final Four, including the championship game, will be migrating to TBS, a continued sign of the narrowing gap between broadcast and cable.

CBS and Time Warner’s Turner unit announced May 7 that Turner’s TBS comedy cabler will broadcast the NCAA tournament’s semifinals and national championship starting in 2016, with CBS televising those events in 2017, and the two parties alternating through 2024. While the idea of a major sporting event moving to cable-only may raise some eyebrows, the two media outlets agreed to this scenario in 2010, when they signed a pact to share multimedia coverage of the popular tournament and the ad dollars that flow to it, due to escalating rights fees that made CBS’ sole position untenable.

Leading up to 2016, TBS will televise the Final Four semifinals and CBS will broadcast the championship game in both 2014 and 2015, the companies said. The 2013 tournament on TBS, CBS, TNT and truTV was the most-watched NCAA tourney in 19 years, according to Nielsen. The event averaged 10.7 million total viewers, up 11% from last year’s 9.6 million viewers.

The migration of the basketball tournament is just the latest TV property once considered to be the sole provenance of broadcast to move to cable, which can shell out more money because of dual revenue streams from subscribers and advertising.

Among the sports events making the leap: college football’s BCS Championship Game, which is now on ESPN rather than ABC; and baseball’s League Championship Series round, now split between Fox and TBS.

Starting in 2014 and lasting through 2024, coverage of the regional semifinals and regional finals games will be split by TBS and CBS. Earlier-round coverage of the tournament will continue to be televised across four national television networks — CBS, TBS, TNT and truTV — with the first four games airing exclusively on truTV.

The new schedule came about as a result of both companies wanting to have a piece of Final Four weekend, said David Levy, president of sales, distribution and sports at Turner Broadcasting System, during a conference call. Turner had an option to broadcast both the Final Four and the championship in 2014, said Levy and Sean McManus, chairman of CBS Sports, and both TV companies wanted to have a presence during those events. “We came up with a compromise,” McManus said.

The network that airs the games stands to reap the ad rewards. Between 2003 and 2012, the NCAA men’s basketball tournament generated more than $5.9 billion in national advertising from 266 different sponsors, according to Kantar Media, which tracks ad spending. Ad revenue in 2012 surpassed the $1 billion mark for the first time, Kantar said, displacing pro football as the top ad-cash generators in the post-season among TV sports properties.

The average price of a 30-second spot in the tournament came to $1.24 million, Kantar said, up 8% from 2011. Many of the NCAA tourney’s top sponsors buy large packages that can cost tens of millions of dollars.

Several details remain to be worked out within CBS and TBS as the NCAA tourney championship shuttles between networks. Sportscasters for the event are still being considered, Levy said.

More TV

  • Fox Corp Names AMC's Yoel Flohr

    Fox Corp Names AMC's Yoel Flohr Executive VP of Technology, Digital

    Fox Corporation has hired Yoel Flohr as executive vice president of technology and digital, Variety has learned He will report to Fox Corporation chief technology officer and president of digital Paul Cheesbrough. In his new role, Flohr will lead the digital product portfolio for Fox Entertainment, overseeing existing digital products and relationships, including Fox Now. [...]

  • Monica Lewinsky

    Monica Lewinsky to Produce Documentary ‘15 Minutes of Shame’ for HBO Max

    Monica Lewinsky has teamed with “Catfish” co-host and producer Max Joseph to produce “15 Minutes of Shame,” a documentary for HBO Max about the culture of public shaming. “15 Minutes of Shame” is described as a look at people from around the world who have been caught up in a situation that involved public criticism [...]

  • 'Riverdale' Team Sets Drama Pilot at

    'Riverdale' Team Sets Drama Pilot at HBO Max

    “Riverdale” Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and two of the show’s writers have set up the drama “The Shelley Society” at HBO Max with a pilot order, Variety has confirmed. The project follows a young Mary Shelley and a band of her fellow Romantics, including Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron, as they battle supernatural threats, including the [...]

  • Sean Hayes and Todd Milliner's Hazy

    Sean Hayes and Todd Milliner's Hazy Mills to Co-Produce SAG Awards

    Sean Hayes and Todd Milliner’s Hazy Mills Productions have joined the SAG Awards producing team. The guild announced this morning that Kathy Connell will once again serve as the show’s producer along with Hayes and Milliner in partnership with Avalon Harbor. “Attending the SAG Awards has always been a pleasure and a privilege for me,” [...]

  • Alia Shawkat

    Alia Shawkat Joins Jeff Bridges in FX Drama Pilot 'Old Man' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Alia Shawkat has been cast in the upcoming FX pilot “The Old Man,” Variety has learned exclusively. She joins previously announced lead Jeff Bridges as well as cast members John Lithgow and Amy Brenneman. Based on the bestselling novel of the same name by Thomas Perry, the series centers on Dan Chase (Bridges), who absconded from [...]

  • TV Ratings: 'The Simpsons' Soars, 'Batwoman'

    TV Ratings: 'The Simpsons' Soars, 'Batwoman' Dips

    Helped by a sizable NFL lead-in, “The Simpsons” aired its annual “Treehouse of Horror” episode to excellent numbers on Fox. Homer, Marge and co. were provided the highest rated scripted show on Sunday night, scoring a 2.1 rating among adults 18-49 and around 5.7 million total viewers. The rest of Fox’s Sunday Animation Domination was [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content