It’s spring. The major cable sports networks are either airing MLB, NASCAR, NBA Playoffs, NHL Playoffs, soccer or UFC. It’s all about live sports. But for CBS Sports Network, it’s not airing any of those events. It’s been plugging along televising events like surfing, Professional Bull Riding, professional bowling, some college sports and there’s something called Pickleball. Pickleball? What exactly is Pickleball? Well, if you go to the YouTube Pickleball Channel, it’s called “the fastest growing sport in America.”

If you don’t know what Pickleball is and have never seen it, here’s a sampling from the CBS Sports Spectacular from last year:

It’s rather interesting. But this is not about Pickleball. This is about CBS Sports Network and its lack of major events that could help grow the channel. Back in 2014, Awful Announcing spoke with David Berson, the President of CBS Sports about growing CBS Sports Network and perhaps bidding for some major sports properties and he told us the following:

On the cable side, we haven’t gone and spent a billion dollars on any one property or anything like that, but we are making significant strides to grow the network. We know it’s not an overnight fix. We have a little different approach than some of the other guys and we’re doing it methodically and strategically for certain properties that add a lot more live events with a lot more personality on the air and gaining a lot more distribution and it works well for our strategy and our business model.

And he added that overspending was not in the cards for CBS and CBS Sports Network:

…we’re going to continue to look and find properties that make sense for us, but again, we’re not going to spend foolishly. We want it to make smart business sense for our company and we picked our spots to date and we feel good about it and we’ll continue to be smart and strategic and selective in wherever we invest.

While CBS Sports has expanded its NFL inventory to include half of the Thursday Night Football package, maintained its standing with the Big Ten through basketball for the next six seasons and extended its agreement to keep Turner as a partner for the NCAA Tournament through 2032, CBS Sports Network still plugs along.

CBS Sports Network does have a consistent daytime lineup that includes radio simulcasts of Boomer & Carton and Tiki and Tierney plus the nightly Time to Schein with Adam Schein, but its primetime schedule still pales in comparison to the other cable sports networks. And it’s all apparently by design.

While CBS Sports Network does have its share of college sports, filling the calendar in the spring and summer leads to some creative programming. If you haven’t checked out the programming guide for CBS Sports Network, in one typical week it will include Arena football, FIM Motorcross, repeats of Showtime boxing, off-road racing, poker, World Surf League, Professional Bull Riding, college and professional bowling, and World’s Strongest Man archival footage.

When you compare it to ESPN’s family of networks which carries MLB, NBA Playoffs, NCAA Championships and tennis in this period, NBCSN which finished another season of English Premier League and has been featuring the NHL Playoffs, FS1 which has Bundesliga, Champions and Europa League soccer, UFC, NASCAR and MLB, CBS Sports Network’s inventory is not one that will provide big numbers.

You would think that somewhere down the line that CBS might think of bidding for some major sports to expand the subscriber base, but look back to what David Berson said in 2014 and how it still applies to the present day, “… we’re going to continue to look and find properties that make sense for us, but again, we’re not going to spend foolishly. We want it to make smart business sense for our company…

The whole key for CBS is to not overspend and have sports properties that make smart business sense for CBS Sports Network. If that includes programming various niche sports like Pickleball to fill time on the CBS Sports Spectacular, then so be it. CBS Sports Network isn’t going to bowl anyone over with its current schedule, but for the sports division, perhaps this is enough to keep the programming going and to ensure it doesn’t repeat the mistakes that have led to cost-cutting and layoffs at the other sports networks.

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.

  • Caleb Sayre

    I think this is great. This is what I miss about ESPN. ESPN used to have odd sports throughout the day, and it was a lot more interesting and fun than seeing 2 people yelling at each other.

  • whittx

    One of the biggest shortcomings of CBS’s combining with Turner to host the NCAA Tournament is that they chose to put games on TruTV instead of on a channel that actually focuses on sports.

    • John Danknich

      That’s a really good point. I’ll at least casually flip by CBSSN sometimes, but unless it’s tourney time, I can’t even tell you what number TruTV is on my cable package. Yet, CBS airs tourney games on a network that was once Court TV. That said, I’m sure that TruTV has a larger presence than CBSSN on the myriad cable companies.

      • Respected Citizen

        Yep, CBS SN has ~26 million fewer subscribers than TruTV (86 mil)

        I don’t know how the revenue sharing works with the deal, but I’m pretty sure Turner/WB advertises TruTV shows during the games on TruTV.

        • John Danknich

          ~26 million fewer households?! No wonder Turner wants the games aired on TruTV.

    • Dale Moog

      This was done at Turners request because Turner owns over half of the rights weight. IE they pay well over half the bill. CBS is allowed to use CBSN to show live highlights and game reairs, but not to show live games.This is fine for CBS because they gain good numbers for CBSN during March even though they do not have live tourney games. CBSN is the only network allowed to reair same year games and they take full advantage of that.

  • D.A.

    As long as CBS fails to subscribe CBSSN to Nielsen, the network will never matter and they will never pull enough carriage fees for them to pay for any rights fees of note.

    • Dummy Up Meathead

      They do subscribe.

  • John Danknich

    I wonder if a fledgling pro wrestling company would look to CBSSN. Yes, I know it’s not a real sport, but it’s gotta be better than pickleball. Right?

    • Respected Citizen

      CBS isn’t interested in controver$y though.

  • mrpresident

    Bad programming is bad programming – even if it is cheap. CBSSN’s existence makes no sense (and has no viewers). Gotta be another play here…which is probably why we’re reading about it now.

  • alnc

    Sports screaming is the fad today. Steven A Smith seems to own Espn and the rest of the other nets just follow along with people who are dreadful, so CBS Sports network is fine. It has Sports.

  • Justin_Herrick

    Title: “So what can be done about CBS Sports Network?”

    Ken, the article offers no solution(s).

  • ItsBlackjack115

    “At CBS Sports Network: If it’s almost a sport, we’ve got it here!”