Can CBS Sports Network become a Sports Media Player?

Over the past three years, ESPN, Fox Sports and NBC Sports have been fighting it out over several major sports properties including the BCS college conferences, the English Premier League, FIFA World Cup, MLB, NHL, Olympics, US Open Tennis, and Wimbledon. During this time, CBS Sports has been quietly biding its time on the sidelines.

And yes, CBS has maintained most of its current lineup – the NFL, NCAA Tournament through Turner Sports, PGA Tour, The Masters, PGA Championship, SEC football, American Athletic Conference (old Big East) and Big Ten basketball plus various minor events.

But what about CBS Sports Network? It has gone from being CSTV, then CBS College Sports when it only carried various college sports programming. In 2011, it rebranded to CBSSN to potentially take on ESPN, Fox and NBC, however, it has yet to happen.

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The network has created various studio programming with well-known personalities. Jim Rome (the aptly named "ROME"), Doug Gottlieb (Lead Off) and Tim Brando. It's also used Phil Simms and other NFL on CBS analysts to create "NFL Monday QB." And CBS does plan to launch its own Sunday morning NFL pregame show in September.

Over the last 12 months, CBSSN has begun to air shoulder programming surrounding some of events on the CBS Mothership including the Super Bowl, The Masters, US Open Tennis and this week's PGA Championship. 

But sports programming is all about live events and the media rights to them. When you look at CBSSN's programming, it hardly compares to the Big Three of Cable Sports – ESPN, Fox Sports 1 and NBC Sports Network. Let's take a look its inventory right here:

SPORT

CONFERENCE/EVENTS

College Football

Army, Navy, Conference USA, Mountain West, Patriot League

College Basketball

A-10, Army, Navy, C-USA, Mountain West, Patriot League

College Hockey

National Collegiate Hockey Conference

Arena Football

21 games/year

MLL/NLL Lacrosse

28 games/year

Professional Bull Riding

25 events/year

Professional Bowling

5 events/year

In addition to the sports listed above, CBS Sports Network also has the World's Strongest Man competition, the CBS Sports Spectacular archives, the AVP Beach Volleyball Tour, the US Open of Surfing and various MotoCross events.

Compare this to the other lineups which collectively include most of the major events on the US and global sporting calendar and you wonder what gives with CBS Sports Network. The other sports divisions have paid premiums for their content. However, CBS appears to have gone a different route, to find niche sports that don't cost as much as the major sports. As one would expect, this means CBS Sports Network lags far behind the competition in ratings and distribution. The cable channel is only in approximately 50 million homes, compared to 100 million for ESPN and ESPN2 and 80 million for NBCSN. The network's ratings aren't even significant enough to be tracked by Nielsen, either.

There are some major sports properties coming up for bid in the next four years including MLS, NBA, Big Ten Conference and the US Open Golf Tournament. Will CBS be part of the action or will it decide to continue on its current programming path that sees it content to stay well behind the other 24/7 cable sports nets? The next few years will be an interesting period for CBS Sports Network and we'll be watching. 

Ken Fang

About Ken Fang

Ken has been covering the sports media in earnest at his own site, Fang's Bites since May 2007 and at Awful Announcing since March 2013. He provides a unique perspective having been an award-winning radio news reporter in Providence and having worked in local television. Fang celebrates the three Boston Red Sox World Championships in the 21st Century, but continues to be a long-suffering Cleveland Browns fan.

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