Once there was a day when the over-air broadcast networks dominated. Now, cable and satellite networks are turning those over-air broadcasters into “just another channel.”
Gasps were heard when ESPN nabbed the BCS games and college football’s championship game starting in 2011. Turner Sports surprised as well when it became CBS’ broadcast partner on the NCAA Tournament in 2011.
Moving some of those basketball games to cable certainly hasn’t hurt ratings. This past year’s tourney was the most-watched in 19 years. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that Turner (and cable) are getting an even bigger part of the tourney package moving forward.
It was announced today that TBS will now begin splitting Sweet 16, Elite Eight, Final Four, and championship games with CBS. In 2014 and 2015, TBS will get the semifinals and CBS will handle the finals. In 2016, TBS will air the championship game, marking the first time in the history of the tournament that its final game will be broadcast via cable.
The proliferation of cable and satellite television viewers over the past decade helps to explain why the SEC — which took a measured approach to launching its own television channel — has decided that the time is right to create an SEC Network (with ESPN).
How long cable and satellite will rule, however, is the question. With more television content being delivered online every day, the window for cable and satellite outlets could be much shorter than that of the well-aged over-air broadcast networks. Which is why the SEC spent as much time touting the online/digital portion of its new ESPN deal as it did pimping its new television property last week.
Eyes forward, folks. Eyes forward.