This week we’ll do something new at Awful Announcing – a series that is a great intellectual endeavor for us that will put fear into the hearts of network executives around the country. In this series, we’ll imagine a scenario where we are put in charge of each of the major sports networks for one day with the mandate that we can change five things at the network. The five things can be anything… but they have to be somewhat based in reality and possible to implement. Hey, we’re realists here, no monkey’s paws allowed.
So what are the five changes we would make if AA was king for a day…. at CBS Sports.
1. Bolster CBS Sports Network
CBS Sports Network is way behind the other cable sports networks as far as content and viewership. CBSSN is in an estimated 56 million homes which trails ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPNews, Fox Sports 1, Golf Channel, MLB Network, NBCSN and NFL Network.
Part of the reason is the content on the network. It is heavy on college sports, but the contracts are with the service academies, the Mountain West, the Patriot League and various non-BCS conferences. Outside of that, CBS Sports Network offers Arena Football, Major League Lacrosse, Professional Bull Riders, National Pro Fastpitch Softball, shoulder programming on the NFL, PGA Championship and talk shows (Boomer & Carton, The Doug Gottlieb Show, Time to Schein, We Need to Talk).
To increase distribution and viewership, CBS needs to bolster its programming on CBSSN. Back in 2013, Awful Announcing talked with CBS Sports President David Berson about growing CBSSN and he admitted that they’re taking a different approach than the other sports divisions on their cable networks:
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.
…..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.
Since we’re playing King for a Day here, let’s take off the economic shackles and allow some spending. As most of the major sports properties are locked up, the last one up for bid in this decade is the Big Ten conference. CBS has a piece of the pie with basketball, but that’s for the broadcast side.
Why not have CBS spread its wealth and bring some Big Ten action to CBS Sports Network? Bid for the contract and put football, basketball and even some hockey games on CBSSN. This is a great way to bolster content, widen distribution and increase ratings.
In addition, get some CFL games for mid-late summer plus air the weekly Friday and Sunday games all the way through the Grey Cup. CFL airs inconsistently on ESPN and many games are shuffled to ESPN3. CBS Sports Network could provide plenty of opportunities for Canadian football.
And when the Thursday Night Football contract goes up for bid again, have four to five games sent to CBSSN during the second half of the schedule after the CBS mothership is finished with the first half. Until the numbers for CBSSN improve, the cable games will still need a simulcast with NFL Network, but when the homes increase to close to the other cable networks, only then could CBS request exclusivity for TNF on CBSSN. But it’s an attraction and will bring viewers to the network.