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Does CBS Sports Flexing Really Work For Basketball Fans?

Saturday, March 28, 2009 , Posted by Christopher Byrne at 10:03 AM, under , ,

Athens, GA (Mar 28, 2009) - There have been some exciting games in this year's NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament. Yes there have also been some blowouts, actually a lot of blowouts, the past few days. But there have been some games that should have seen a lot more flex-time, especially last night's Kansas - Michigan State game.

Played at the same time as Gonzaga's big loss to North Carolina, CBS Sports did flex to that game for the Atlanta market. For a brief time before heading back to the North Carolina blowout of Gonzaga. One would have to assume that they felt that people in the South would rather see a North Carolina blowout in its entirety than a great game featuring the defending national champions.

If Atlanta was a big ACC market (defined in terms of how rabid fans in the North Carolina markets are), it might make sense to keep the focus on the Tar Heels game. But true basketball fans want to see an exciting game.

They want to see it without having to turn on their computers to get to March Madness on Demand. The cynic in me would hate to think that this is a cynical ploy to drive viewers to the MMOD site and increase traffic. Last weekend I went that route to be able to see the Siena - Ohio State finish in its entirety, uninterrupted. Granted, that one was tough because two comelling finishes were happening at the same time. But for CBS Sports to have flexed Siena fans in the Albany and upstate New York markets away from the game defies logic.

But last night I just turned the television channel and watched something else. Having been working on the computer all day long, the motivation to go to MMOD was just not there. And there was absolutely no reason to stay with the Zags - Tar Heels matchup. The game was long over and was not fun to watch.

Steve Karasik is working his first NCAA tournament as Coordinating Producer at CBS Sports. Recently he told me how excited he was for this opportunity, but the pressure has got to be huge (and Steve is such a young pup relatively when compared to the age of this writer;-)). I do hope that he and the rest of the CBS Sports production team sit down after the tournament and talk about how flexing decision are and should be made going down the road.

In fact, Mike Aresco, Vice-President of Programming for CBS Sports, admitted the Siena mistake and they need to look at what happened. As found on Pete Dougherty's Albany Times-Union blog, Areasco was on the Chris "Mad-Dog" Russo's show and said the following:

Russo: “In those [Albany and Louisville] markets. you switched out of their game in a close second half to go to the Missouri-Marquette game. I can understand the rest of the country, but you did it in markets of local interest and those fans in those markets flooded their local TV stations with calls and those TV stations said, ‘Don’t look at us. Blame it on CBS.’ Explain that.”

Aresco: “That’s understandable. We always plan on staying with a constant. In some situations, and we’ve done it over the years, we’ll try to get to just a buzzer-beater and get right back to the constant. In this particular case we had an unusual situation that developed. You had two exciting potential buzzer-beaters at the same time. We’re trying to what we call ping-pong back and forth and then there were some bizarre circumstances in those games and we did use commercials as best we could. When games were stopped we would go back but in this particular case, yeah, we didn’t get back fast enough and things were happening quickly and it happens.”

Russo: “But, Mike, I don’t care what you do in New York. I understand that but that’s Albany, New York, Siena. I mean, that’s Louisville, Kentucky.”

Aresco: “But the concept was to get right back and to show them the buzzer-beater and it’s one of those things.”

Russo: “Well, did CBS –- tell me honestly –- did CBS make a mistake with those two markets?”

Aresco: “Well, I think in this particular case, yeah. I think in this particular case we probably needed to get back a little quicker. And in fact, we also most of the time, Chris, we keep things constant. In this case we’ll reassess that.”

Here's hoping!

Related Link(s)

The Count: How CBS Decides Which Game You’re Watching
(Craig Bialik on the Wall Street Journal) (thanks to Fang's Bites for this link!)
CBS programming VP vows to reassess Siena situation (Pete Dougherty of the Albany Times-Union)

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