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March Madness: Cable Gladness

3/18/2013 9:45 AM

CBS and Turner Sports’ upcoming coverage of the 2013 NCAA men’s college basketball tournament — aka “March Madness” — has generated a lot of buzz, but it’s the 2014 version that has cable hoping for a big score.

Several published reports have CBS Sports passing rights to live coverage of the Final Four to Turner’s TNT and TBS networks beginning next year, a full two years before terms of the current 14-year, $10.8 billion deal between the NCAA and Turner and CBS calls for the rights trade.

With much early-round coverage already airing on TNT, TBS and truTV, adding the must see Final Four and title game would provide additional value to whichever Turner network carried those three games.

It would also increase the value of a cable subscription to viewers filling out their NCAA brackets. More important, it could keep young sports fans from potentially cutting the cable cord. While cord-cutting isn’t an epidemic, it’s something that operators are keenly aware of and are eagerly looking to curtail.

One way to do that is to offer content that can’t be found on the Web or other alternative platforms, and live sports events fit that bill. Sports fans already need cable to watch big-ticket events like Monday Night Football, much of the NBA, NHL and MLB playoffs, and college football’s Bowl Championship Series. Much like this year’s March Madness games airing on TNT, TBS and truTV, you need to be authenticated through your cable, satellite or telco distributor to watch most cable sports telecasts on your computer screen, iPod, tablet or smartphone.

A Final Four move to the Turner networks — whether it’s next year or in 2016 — would only add to the idea that you need cable if you want to be in the game.