Magazine article Variety

NBC, CBS Pace Themselves in Cable Sports

Magazine article Variety

NBC, CBS Pace Themselves in Cable Sports

Article excerpt

Do they have the killer content they need?

As Fox revs up its revamped cable sports networks in a bid to chase down ESPN, two competitors are staying in their lanes.

NBC Sports Network and CBS Sports Network are years into their maturation process and appear to be more focused than ever. Each recently streamlined its name, significantly increased its number of live programming hours, and is aggressively looking for ways to deliver more "shoulder programming" on the backs of its parent broadcaster's marquee events.

"Any time there are more folks doing similar things, the added competition just makes us all better," says David Berson, president of CBS Sports and its cable offshoot, which had been CBS College Sports Network from 2008 to 2011. "It forces everybody to step up their games and innovate."

For CBSSN, which is in about 50 million homes (up from about 38 million two years ago), a key moment came in uniting all of CBS Sports under Berson, who was tapped president of CBS Sports in June after running the cable network's sports division since 2011.

Berson points to Jim Rome's weeknight show and the launch earlier this year of a 24/7 CBS Sports Radio national network as part of an effort to better use all of the Eye's assets and talent.

"We feel we've truly integrated CBS Sports," he says. "One team programming across all the various platforms makes a big difference."

In addition to college football, the net's lineup includes the Pro Bowlers Assn., Major League Lacrosse and the Arena Football League. Nielsen ratings for CBSSN aren't released to the press.

Rick Gentile, exec producer of CBS Sports through much of the 1990s,

says that while CBSSN has grown, it should have more college basketball on air, especially during March Madness - a property it shares with Turner Sports.

"CBS missed an unbelievably golden opportunity when the NCAA (basketball) negotiations were happening," says Gentile, now an industry analyst. …

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