Kentucky fans aren’t the only ones reeling from UK’s Sweet 16 loss to Kansas State. Television executives fear this year’s NCAA Tournament upsets will kill ratings on the game’s biggest stage.
In a Siruis XM Radio appearance, CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus explained just how bad the loss will hurt the network.
“From a television standpoint, you really root for the big teams,” McManus said. “Last night’s Kentucky outcome was not good for us and not good for TBS at all. Kentucky being the blue bloods that they are, and having the television draw that they have, that really hurt us. Kansas State winning — I have nothing against Kansas State as a school or a team — but that really hurt us.”
By the end of his lamentation, he almost sounded like a scorned bettor: “And that was a game Kentucky should’ve won. All they gotta do is hit a few free throws at the end of the game and they win that game — that really hurt us.”
It will hurt even more when the Final Four moves from CBS to TBS this year. A move to cable naturally takes away a large portion of the viewing audience. Now they can’t rely on Kentucky fans to carry their water.
The numbers back up Kentucky’s TV dominance. Thursday night’s Sweet 16 loss drew 8.3 million viewers on CBS. The 5.0 rating was 20 percent better than last year’s Kansas-Purdue match-up and it was the most-watched Thursday Sweet 16 game since 2011.