This year's NCAA Men's Basketball Championship brought drama, buzzer-beaters, Florida Gulf Coast University, Kevin Ware, that Spike Albrecht kid, and the best television ratings in nearly two decades, which only means the $10.8 billion deal that CBS and Turner cut to get all the games again was totally worth jacking up your cable bill for — and might be once again. The entire tournament averaged 10.7 million viewers for its entire set of games, which is up 11 percent from the year before, reports The New York Times's Bill Carter. Monday night's final pulled in 23.4 million viewers, up 12 percent from 2012, which is great for Rick Pitino and Les Moonves, but not so great for our ever increasing cable bills. It's exactly these types of expensive sports that are pushing provider prices way up.
In the case of March Madness, CBS, TBS, TNT, and even TruTV have a point: A lot of people tune in to watch, so the price of a cable package is worth it, even if it balloons because of deals with the NCAA or especially the NFL. That still doesn't mean good sports are worth that much of your money, especially for all the millions of people who pay for cable but didn't watch every last shining moment. (Something like 100 million Americans have pay TV.) The NCAA basketball tournament is that rare event that captures national attention, and not just from niche sports fans who are subsidizing the NFL on TV. And other leagues have even more exorbitant deals than CBS. Here's a roundup of some of the most expensive ones from AdAge today:
Starting in 2014, MLB will roughly double its annual payday thanks to national-TV renewals worth $12.4 billion with ESPN, Fox and TBS. After the 2014 regular season, ESPN will pay an estimated $7 billion to televise college football's new national playoff through 2026. Time Warner Cable will spend an estimated $8 billion over 25 years to create a new regional sports network around the Los Angeles Dodgers, according to Sports Business Journal.
So, yeah, maybe you were one of the 23 million to tune in to the Spike Albrecht show Monday night, and the nail-biter with Louisville made your $90 cable bill totally worth it — or at least the NBA and NHL playoffs coming up will help. But what about the other stuff? And will next year's tournament be quite as compelling? The CBS/Turner deal runs through 2024.