The story surfaced Monday night and was posted in Tuesday's Sports Business Daily by John Ourand. CBS and Turner are talking about allowing the Final Four and National Championship Game in 2014, two years before TBS was going to start airing the event.
When CBS and Turner won the rights to air the NCAA Tournament in 2010, both networks publicly stated that TBS would begin airing the Final Four in 2016 and then alternate with CBS until 2024. However, as Ourand reports, there's a provision in the contract that would allow Turner to begin showing the Final Four on TBS next year. Both networks are talking behind the scenes about bringing this to fruition.
Should this be the case, it would end CBS' amazing run of airing the National Semifinals and the Championship Game dating back to 1982. It would also mark another major sporting event going from broadcast to cable, although CBS will remain the home of the Final Four in odd years through the life of the contract. Over the last few years, we've seen the BCS, NASCAR's Chase for the Sprint Cup, Wimbledon and the Open Championship become exclusive cable events.
What about the "Turner Years" for the Final Four? While the CBS/Turner partnership has been wonderful over the past couple of years, don't expect to see "CBS on TBS" when the event goes to cable either next year or in 2016. Turner Sports wants to put its stamp on college basketball's final weekend. One would think that Ernie Johnson would host the Final Four instead of Greg Gumbel. Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith would be locks to remain as studio analysts with Greg Anthony (who's also a Turner employee on NBA TV). Marv Albert would most likely call the games before eventually transitioning to Kevin Harlan in the latter half of this decade. And Steve Kerr and Clark Kellogg would stay as courtside analysts. Yes, Craig Sager and his loud wardrobe has to make an appearance on the sidelines along with Rachel Nichols.
Will it be a shock to see the Final Four on TBS for the first time? Yes absolutely, but we watch for the games, not the network. And once the games tap off, it won't matter if they're on CBS or TBS. However, if "One Shining Moment" is not on the first TBS Final Four, you know there will be an outcry.
The first Final Four on cable either in 2014 or 2016 will give some sports media writers and fans another reason to lament the migration of sports' biggest events to cable, but in this day and age, all we want are the games in HD and surround sound. TBS will provide the fans with another outlet for the games and that can't be all bad.