Hypothetical scenario: let’s say next April, at the beginning of the month, you’re flipping through channels when suddenly you realize it’s Final Four season. Awesome, right?
You snap your TV remote to your local CBS affiliate and find LL Cool J trying to retain a semblance of a career on NCIS: Los Angeles. You ask: what the f*ck? Where’s the college basketball?
Well, according to Variety, the men’s Final Four has found a new home on cable. Beginning in 2014, the Final Four will air its semifinals only on TBS, with the championship game airing on CBS. Ditto for 2015. In 2016, TBS will air the entirety of the Final Four, as CBS will take it every other year after that until 2024.
As rights fees to broadcast the tournament have risen, the need to share the broadcast has shifted the annual college sports fan’s nirvana to cable. Not to mention that viewers have started to watch the games on other mediums besides television sets, including tablets and laptops. Both CBS and TBS’ parent company, Turner, agreed to the arrangement in 2010, although this year featured an array of March Madness games across cable networks such as truTV, TNT and TBS.
But it’s hard to imagine fans losing sleep over the arrangement. Forbes recently mentioned that a Nielsen study found that 31 percent young adults (a general term that we can assume means anyone between the ages of, say, 18 and 44) have ditched cable (and the broadcast networks that now come with it) because of “lack of interest.” Services like Aereo have also made getting cable packages that include broadcast networks even less relevant, offering broadcast channels for as cheap as $8 per month–a steal that’s causing broadcast networks to potentially turn into cable networks. And don’t forget that CBS provided live streams of NCAA Tournament games and the Super Bowl this past year, free of charge on its website.
So the new deal isn’t as world-changing as it would’ve been ten years ago. Hell, there was a short requiem for Monday Night Football when it switched to ESPN from ABC in 2006, but now even that seems normal being broadcast on cable. The Final Four’s move to cable is just another drop in the bucket for broadcast networks trying to keep up with their growing obsolescence in the wake of viewers’ changing how they imbibe media.
Because viewers can now get all the college basketball action they want without LL.