According to John Ourand of Sports Business Daily, coverage of the Final Four, college basketball’s crowning broadcast, could appear on cable television as soon as 2014. CBS and Turner Broadcasting, who co-own rights to the NCAA tournament, are negotiating to put the premier sports championship on cable.
It is likely that this will occur, putting the Final Four on TBS for the first time. TBS is available on most basic cable tiers, and airs on channel 247 on DIRECTV. This will be the first time since 1982 that the semifinals and finals of the NCAA basketball championship will not air on CBS, though preliminary games over the first weekends will still air on the network.
Commentary from leading sports media blog Awful Announcing:
What about the “Turner Years” for the Final Four? While the CBS/Turner partnership has been wonderful over the past couple of years, don’t expect to see “CBS on TBS” when the event goes to cable either next year or in 2016. Turner Sports wants to put its stamp on college basketball’s final weekend. One would think that Ernie Johnson would host the Final Four instead of Greg Gumbel. Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith would be locks to remain as studio analysts with Greg Anthony (who’s also a Turner employee on NBA TV). Marv Albert would most likely call the games before eventually transitioning to Kevin Harlan in the latter half of this decade. And Steve Kerr and Clark Kellogg would stay as courtside analysts. Yes, Craig Sager and his loud wardrobe has to make an appearance on the sidelines along with Rachel Nichols.
Will it be a shock to see the Final Four on TBS for the first time? Yes absolutely, but we watch for the games, not the network. And once the games tap off, it won’t matter if they’re on CBS or TBS. However, if “One Shining Moment” is not on the first TBS Final Four, you know there will be an outcry.
The first Final Four on cable either in 2014 or 2016 will give some sports media writers and fans another reason to lament the migration of sports’ biggest events to cable, but in this day and age, all we want are the games in HD and surround sound. TBS will provide the fans with another outlet for the games and that can’t be all bad.
While this is a major step for cable TV, until the Super Bowl airs on a cable network, the networks will still have the power in the sports discussion.