SBD/Issue 132/Sports Media

CBS Earns 6.8/12 Overnight For Thursday NCAA Coverage, Up 13%

CBS Earns 7.4/13 Overnight For
Window Featuring Nova-Duke

CBS earned a 6.8/12 overnight Nielsen rating for its Thursday night coverage of the NCAA men's basketball tournament Sweet Sixteen, up 13% from a 6.0/11 last year. The net earned a 6.2/11 overnight in the early window, which featured Connecticut-Purdue and Pittsburgh-Xavier, while the late window earned a 7.4/13 overnight for Villanova-Duke and Missouri-Memphis. CBS’ overall overnight Nielsen rating for the entire tournament is a 5.6/12, up 8% from ’08 (THE DAILY).

THE ART OF SWITCHING: CBS was criticized by some for switching between games during the first two rounds of the tournament, and CBS Sports Exec VP/Programming Mike Aresco said the process is "far more art than science." Aresco: "If you had a cutoff -- say, 15 points as a magic number -- you would essentially limit your options. Our job is to try to be as alert as possible, because games change very quickly." He said the net's philosophy on switching between games is that it is "not going to let a game get too far out of hand before we move audiences." Aresco: "If we're going to err, we'll err on the side of leaving [a] game a little earlier rather than a little later. We will not let that game get to 15 or 20 points, which was the case a few years ago." The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Carl Bialik noted the exception to these rules is that "local markets may get stuck with a blowout," as for any given game, "somewhere between 2% and 7% or more of the country is categorized as a 'constant' region." Aresco noted, "In North Carolina, we won't switch from a Duke or North Carolina game, unless there's a buzzer-beater situation developing somewhere" (WSJ.com, 3/26). But YAHOO SPORTS' Matthew Darnell writes of Thursday night's games, "If you were in pursuit of the best basketball to watch, and your CBS affiliate had you glued to Pitt/Xavier, well, it just wasn't your night." Pittsburgh-Xavier was a "slow, plodding game that was physical and sloppy" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 3/26).

TWO-MAN GAME: CBS' Verne Lundquist is calling the East Regional games with Bill Raftery this weekend, and he said, "We worked together for the first time in 1983 when we did back-to-back games. Afterward someone said, 'Hey, you two guys really sound great together.'" After going 17 years without working together after that initial broadcast, they were paired in '01 and Lundquist notes they have "been together ever since and he's been great." In Boston, Michael Vega notes Raftery's "exuberant expressions, such as 'Onions!' for a huge 3-pointer ... have not only provided levity, but have taken on a life of their own." Raftery: "People will say stuff or holler out something to me all the time at the airport. It's crazy how people do pick stuff up, but I'm lucky" (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/27).

REPORT CARD: In Miami, Barry Jackson awards CBS a "B" for its coverage of the tournament to date. Among the positives are "prompt switching between the conclusion of close games; solid work from new lead analyst Clark Kellogg; and an emphasis on using halftime to show live action elsewhere." But Jackson writes his " biggest pet peeve" is "too much screaming from play-by-play announcers, especially Gus Johnson" (MIAMI HERALD, 3/27).

BIGGER THAN COULD BE IMAGINED: Pilson Communications President Neal Pilson was CBS Sports President when the network acquired the rights to the tournament in the early ‘80s, and he said, “We thought the tournament could grow, we thought it could become a major American sports event. But I don’t think we ever anticipated how big it is today.” Pilson: “I think it’s eclipsed the World Series now and next to the Super Bowl, it’s the biggest event in American sport.” Pilson said the revenue streams from digital ad sales, affiliate contribution and CBS owned-and-operated stations generate revenue that can help the net “certainly get at break even or possibly profit.” Pilson: “These major sports properties don’t have to turn a profit. … They bring in so many incremental viewers, advertisers (and) media focus to the network” ("SportsMoney,” Yes, 3/26).

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