The TV Madness is New

Your game will be on one of four networks.

With the new broadcasting plan for the NCAA Tournament, viewers who don’t go to sports bars may have a tough time finding their favorite team.  And for WLKY-TV, the local station that traditionally boasts the best ratings in the nation for the tournament, the new arrangement could really hurt its numbers.

That’s because WLKY has no say in what game CBS execs in New York choose. The network gets first choice, and WLKY has lucked out today because it has the Kentucky game. But U of L’s game with Morehead is on TBS (too bad for you non-cable subscribers). And in the next round, either team could end up on TBS, TruTV or TNT.

Glenn Haygood, WLKY’s GM, is not sounding any alarms, though he realizes it’s possible that his station could get a game with a team like Kansas State on its air while U of L or UK plays on a cable network. He says it won’t hurt the station either way.

“Overall ratings will be just as high,” he said. “You will see cable ratings go high, but overall there will be no less interest in the tournament.  I think we’ll see larger ratings than we’ve ever seen. We just don’t know how those ratings will be distributed. If we end up with neither game on Saturday, it would hurt our ratings. If we’re broadcasting games at the same time as Louisville or Kentucky, that would be bad. ”

But not necessarily bad for the bottom line. Haygood said local ad packages are sold before any games are set, so local advertisers must take a pretty big risk. The ratings for a particular game could have a massive audience, likely for today’s Kentucky-Princeton game, but could be dismal if WLKY gets a dud while U of L is playing on a cable station.

“We’ll know tomorrow, when we see the overnights, whether people were switching back or just staying with one game,” he said.

Haygood is optimistic, because CBS gets first choice and he thinks the U of L and UK matchups will be attractive for CBS.

He thinks that potentially the Louisville-Vandy contest, or the Kentucky-West Virginia game, will be chosen by CBS. And Haygood adds that he’s not too bummed about getting BYU-Wofford tonight, because it gives audiences a chance to see the phenomenal Jimmer Fredette of the Cougars.

Next week, chances are better for WLKY of getting games of local interest, because only TBS and CBS have the Sweet 16. And after that it’s all CBS. But still, the new arrangement creates the possibility that the Cards or Cats will only be available on cable.