Adding Two More Final Four Telecasts is An Interesting MovePosted by Chris Johnson on November 19th, 2013
Watch or listen to enough of your favorite team’s games, and it’s easy to get attached to a particular announcer, play-by-play man, or both. For better or worse, fans get comfortable hearing the same voice every time they turn on their radio or television to watch their teams play. Sometimes fans discuss what they like or don’t like about their team’s radio or television broadcasts. Being a fan of a team is – whether you like it or not – being a fan of the radio and television announcers that call that team’s games as well. You may not like what they have to say all the time, but those guys are people you sort of just learn to deal with – lest you begin pressing the mute button on your TV remote anytime you watch your team play, or neglecting games in favor of listening to music on long car rides.
A lot of people actually enjoy their favorite team’s radio and TV broadcasters. I happen to find Gary Cohen, Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez entertaining and informative (As for the team they cover… that’s a different story). That’s the idea that CBS and Turner Sports had in mind, one would think, when they decided they would air three different telecasts for the two 2014 Final Four games. There will be a standard broadcast airing on TBS that will likely feature CBS’ top announcing crew of Steve Kerr, Greg Anthony, Jim Nantz and Tracy Wolfson. The other two broadcasts will use announcers and “camera angles” to accommodate the fan bases of the competing teams (The national championship game will still be carried solely on CBS). Who will be selected to call the TNT and TruTV telecasts is yet to be determined, according to a report from Sports Business Journal, but it should also be noted that Turner and CBS expect to air one set of advertisements at the same time across the three productions.
If Kansas and Duke happened to meet in one national semifinal, for instance, there would be one broadcast that focused on Duke and another that focused on Kansas – along with the third standard, national broadcast for the many fans with no rooting interest or ties to either school, the people who would prefer a more objective perspective. This is the first year the Final Four will air exclusively on cable television; the national telecast will air on TBS, with the two others on TNT and TruTV. While most events lose viewers when they move from broadcast to cable television, it’s believed that the expansion of team-specific coverage will attract enough eyeballs to offset any measurable ratings decline.
With this strategy of surrounding the event by carrying the games across three fully distributed cable channels, Turner is certain to generate buzz around the games, which almost certainly will attract aggregate viewing numbers that would be higher than if only one network carried the event.
It’s hard to find fault with this idea. The higher-ups at CBS and Turner are well aware that shifting the Final Four telecasts away from broadcast television means fewer people will watch. Adding two more telecasts is a wise attempt to preempt a dip in viewership, and you know what? It just might work. The national telecast on TBS will attract the most viewers, obviously, but I’d bet there are plenty of people who’d rather watch their team play while listening to a play-by-play and color man that share their partisan mindset. If you’re a Kansas fan, for example, are you really interested in watching Wolfson bug Coach K about three-point shooting and man-to-man defense as he walks off the court after the first half? No! You want to hear two Jayhawk supporters going nuts anytime Andrew Wiggins dunks. You want to hear about how great Bill Self is, how the Jayhawks stand to be great next year even if they lose this game. You want to hear things like this. I’m not sure what the ratings will be like for the two specialized broadcasts, but if it means more people will watch the two games, I’m all for it. The national telecast on TBS will remain the main attraction – the other two will probably feel more like less refined versions of the same product. It doesn’t matter. People like to listen to people who think the same way they do. It’s part of being a sports fan, part of the relationship we share with our favorite teams. We identify with our team’s color and play-by-play guys. After listening to familiar voices call their team’s games during the regular season, fans of Final Four participants can expect something similar on the biggest national stage the sport has to offer. It’s a cool concept.