I don’t follow tennis all that much, so I just learned that CBS will not retain the broadcast rights to the U.S. Open after 2014. However, as a fan of SEC football, I’m very much aware of the consequences of that.
ESPN’s new ownership of the U.S. Open tennis tournament could mean CBS televises early-season SEC football games starting in 2015.
CBS has carried the U.S. Open every year since 1968, meaning CBS doesn’t begin airing SEC games until the third or fourth week of September. With the U.S. Open leaving for ESPN after 2014, CBS would have to decide whether it wants to use some of its allotted games in earlier weeks, SEC Executive Associate Commissioner Mark Womack said today.
From a viewership standpoint, I don’t think CBS haz a sad over this. Due to last year’s mediocre slate of games, ratings for SEC on CBS dropped to their lowest level in four years. But that was still better than twice as much as what the Open pulled.
Here’s the thing – that “some of the allotted games” is kind of a big deal.
In years when college football’s regular season has a typical 13-week calendar, CBS owns 14 regular-season games plus the SEC Championship Game. The regular-season games include one primetime game, an early 11 a.m. doubleheader game prior to its usual 2:30 p.m. time slot, and a game on the Friday after Thanksgiving.
That’s a tight squeeze in ordinary years. But in years when there’s an extra week to the season, CBS, with the Open gone, wouldn’t have enough product to broadcast every week if it so desired. Seems like there’s a pretty obvious way to solve that problem, no?