Anyone who’s been reading our overnight ratings posts for the last two days can see for themselves that the ratings that CBS has been getting for their own broadcasts of the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament are down from recent years. Lots of confused chatter in our comments from folks who think CBS is disappointed in that outcome.

Nope, they’re OK with it, and in fact, they may be very happy with the outcome.

How can that possibly be?

Until this year, CBS had the sole rights to the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament, so their broadcast could only show a single game at a time, cutting back and forth during times when there were multiple games in play. This year, CBS shares the telecasts with three Turner cable networks (TNT, TBS, truTV), and so every game is telecast in its entirety (at least to the 80+% of the nation who get all three of those cable networks).

Conventional wisdom, bolstered by CBS public statements, was that CBS lost money on the NCAA tournament after paying the rights fees to the NCAA. This year, they’re sharing the (increased) rights fees with Turner.

Here’s a breakdown of the winners and losers.




  • Presumably lower (or no) losses on the rights fees.

Turner (TBS, TNT, truTV)

  • Presumably the rights fees have been balanced by anticipated upside in future subscriber fee leverage, viewership increases leading to marketing opportunities, and advertising revenue increases.

TV viewers with Turner cable networks

  • Get to watch exactly the game they want, when they want.


TV viewers without Turner cable networks

  • Can only watch the single CBS broadcast game on TV, but can watch any games online. Sorry! Whatever the level of whining from folks without those Turner cable networks is now, just wait until a few years from now when the championship game is on cable.


  • They used to have the rights to the “all games” package. Of course, they’re not paying the rights fees for that any longer, but presumably they wouldn’t have paid for them in the first place if they didn’t think the benefits > fees.

Selected Local CBS Affiliates

  • In previous years, local CBS affiliates could choose a regionally attractive game and lock into it for their market. That’s no longer possible under the new process.

Updated to add DirecTV and Local CBS affiliates as losers.

Posted by:TV By The Numbers

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