CBS, Turner Deals Look Savvy

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Seven years ago, CBS and Turner Sports agreed to an eight-year media rights extension to continue broadcasting March Madness games through 2032. Five years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court shot down PASPA.

Since you’re here, you probably have a pretty good notion that these events have a synergistic relationship. In fact, the latter may have made the former one of the greatest sports bets of all time.

The networks’ original deal with the NCAA, signed in 2010, was set to expire in 2024. By the end of the current contract, March Madness games will have aired exclusively on CBS, TBS, TNT, and TruTV for 22 consecutive seasons. That puts those media companies at the center of not only one of the top events on the U.S. sporting calendar, but arguably the top event for legal sports betting all year.

Unlike the Super Bowl, which takes place over about four hours, this one lasts three weeks.

CBS is broadcasting the Final Four this year and Turner will get it next season, as the companies trade off under the terms of the contract extension. The original deal cost $10.8 billion, with the 2016 extension costing the companies an additional $8.8 billion.

Here’s where sports betting comes in and might make those numbers look like pocket change in the long run. While media companies have been lamenting the decline of advertising revenue for years, sports betting has offered a bulwark. Studies have shown that sports bettors spend about twice as much time watching televised sports as non-bettors.

An American Gaming Association survey found that roughly 68 million American adults plan to wager on this year’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament, to the tune of about $15.5 billion. The sheer number of bettors is expected to eclipse the Super Bowl by nearly 20 million, though the tournament’s handle is expected to be about $500 million below Super Bowl levels. Either way, they’re both massive media events, and they’re both aided by the addition of legal sports betting in massive ways.

Given that the vast majority of viewers now have legal sports betting where they live — 36 states and the District of Columbia included — CBS and Turner are in possession of a huge audience of highly invested customers. That makes their decision to fork over all those extra dollars seven years ago look like not only a wise choice, but a well-timed one.

Diamond Sports declares bankruptcy

The moment teams have been worried about and leagues have been planning for has arrived.

Diamond Sports Group, the largest owner of regional sports networks, filed for bankruptcy protection on Tuesday under the strain of more than $8 billion in debt. The subsidiary of Sinclair Broadcast Group said in a press release that it is finalizing a restructuring support agreement with a majority of its debt holders.

Already, the group has missed interest payments and the rights fees it pays to the leagues and teams. Diamond said it plans to continue broadcasting local games from its portfolio of 19 networks under the Bally Sports brand, but Major League Baseball has quietly been exploring taking over the broadcasts itself. The league said in a statement this week that it expects Diamond to continue broadcasting games during bankruptcy.

While Diamond has obtained streaming rights for all of its NBA and NHL teams, it is still working on a team-by-team basis to get similar rights for MLB games. It had better hurry, as Opening Day is March 30.

“Major League Baseball is ready to produce and distribute games to fans and their local markets in the event that Diamond or any other regional sports network is unable to do so as required by their agreement with the clubs,” MLB said in a statement.

For now, you can plan on watching your favorite teams through the same channels, but keep a nimble hand on that remote.

Aaron Rodgers spreads the love

Perhaps by the time you read this, you already know where Rodgers will take his next snap. The longtime Green Bay Packers quarterback was scheduled to make an appearance on the The Pat McAfee Show on YouTube Wednesday at 1 p.m. ET, shortly after press time for this column, and many people were hoping he would reveal where he’s headed, as heavy speculation continues to build that he’ll be a New York Jet.

Regardless of where he ends up, Rodgers seems to have carefully curated his words and appearances to help out media friends. McAfee, a punter, was an eight-year NFL veteran. Rodgers’ previous statements, which amounted to little, came in an interview with ex-NFL receiver Brandon Marshall over the weekend.

Rodgers, 39, met with Jets officials last week in Malibu. While NFL free agency just began Wednesday, teams had been negotiating since Monday and the Jets have been pushing for clarity for a while now.

Rodgers has indicated a fondness for “darkness retreats” in the past. Perhaps he’ll shine a little light on things by finally making his decision to one of his media buddies one of these days.


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