The NCAA Tournament “Final Four” was already scheduled to move to TBS in 2016, but reports indicate the move could come as soon as next year.
CBS and Turner Sports’ 14-year NCAA Tournament television contact includes an option that would allow TBS to begin televising the Final Four next year, The New York Times reported Monday. Currently, TBS is not scheduled to air the Final Four until 2016, after which the network will alternate with CBS for the remainder of the deal.
A CBS spokesperson told The New York Times that there is “no timetable” for a decision on next year’s tournament. Via an unverified Twitter account, however, Sports Business Journal writer John Ourand reported Monday that the move to TBS would “likely” take place next year.
Under the CBS/Turner deal, TBS is also slated to air half of the Elite Eight games starting in 2016. It was not clear whether that provision of the deal would kick in early as well.
It is, of course, far from unprecedented for championship sporting events to air on cable. The Bowl Championship Series began airing on ESPN in 2011, and the new college football playoff will air on the network from 2015 to 2026. Lower-profile events such as the entire British Open and portions of the NHL Stanley Cup Final also air on cable TV.
Regardless of what happens next year, CBS will still air the Final Four in 2015, 2017, 2019, 2021 and 2023.