CBS and Turner grab NCAA Tournament

CBS and Turner Broadcasting announced a mega-deal that will keep at least some of the NCAA Tournament on the Tiffany network – but much of it is moving to cable.

In an eye-popping 14-year, $10.8 billion deal struck on Wednesday, CBS and Turner’s family of networks – TNT, TBS, and TruTV (formerly CourtTV) will carry both the preliminary and second round of the tournament along with the regional semifinals, with CBS carrying it the rest of the way.

But in the deal’s sixth year and beyond,  both Turner and CBS will carry the regional finals and alternate the Final Four. For example, Turner gets the Final Four in 2016, while CBS carries it in 2017, and so on.

Also, the NCAA is expanding the tournament to 68 teams, the first since the play-in game was added a few years ago. There were proposal to expand the tourney to 96 teams, which was opposed by many fans.

CBS was in the next-to-last year in an 11-year deal with had the network pay about a billion dollars to air the tournament. The NCAA had a right to opt-out of the deal after this season, and did shop around for a new deal.

But CBS’ chances to keep the tournament improved after ESPN decided not to raise its offer.

CBS has been home of the NCAA Tournament since 1982. Beforehand, NBC had the rights and carried the famous Larry Bird – Earvin “Magic” Johnson NCAA Final in 1979 (Indiana State-Michigan State), which thrust the tournament into the national spotlight.

CBS and Turner officials defended the deal, saying one network carrying the tournament was no longer feasible given the change in the way viewers consume media and fans wanted all the games televised in their entirety. The deal comes at a time when broadcasters have been losing some major sporting events to cable.

Thought: I have to take issue here with what Harry Jessell of the wonderful TVNewscheck website had to say about the new tournament deal being bad for broadcasters. While it appears CBS is getting the short end of the stick, it’s better than no college basketball games at all. And the deal is a great one for college hoops fans as they get to access (at least those with cable or satellite) all the games in their entirety, and the deal is great for advertisers because more spots and advertising opportunities will now become available.

And why CBS decided to partner up with cable? Because it made more financial sense. NBC, ABC, and Fox were not going to partner up with an arch rival to carry a college basketball tournament. They have their own programming needs – none of them even carry college basketball. That’s just insane. And Mr. Jessell, comparing the NCAA Basketball Tournament to the NFL is like comparing apples to oranges.

As for the broadcasters, what Mr. Jessell does not realize is the whole world does not evolve around their industry. College hoops fans (and most other people) don’t care about their plight. It’s not like broadcast television and radio broadcasters – most of which are owned by out-of-town big conglomerates – have ever cared about us viewers in the first place.  While yours truly is all for broadcasters receiving fair compensation from MSOs and satellite providers, yanking signals from the air and depriving viewers of major events like the Oscars is totally shitful – we the public don’t like being used as pawns in a game of greed.

And since broadcasters are going to receive a boatload for cash from political candidates and organizations to air their negative ads whenever there’s an election, broadcasters should be fine – as long as they continue to lure suckers to their local “newscasts”. Call it The Local Broadcasting Stimulus Plan.

So why should we feel sorry for them?