April 8, 2013
On Monday night, millions of college-basketball fans are expected to tune into the men's NCAA final on the CBS broadcast network, as they have done annually for more than three decades. Next year, they could be watching on a cable channel for the first time.
Time Warner Inc.'s Turner Broadcasting, whose TNT, TBS and truTV cable channels already televise games from the tournament's first three rounds, is discussing a possible arrangement with CBS Corp. under which it would broadcast the later rounds in 2014, including the widely viewed Final Four semifinal contests and national championship game, people familiar with the matter say. In a joint statement, Turner and CBS said they haven't made a decision on the matter and don't have a timetable. Such a moveŚpart of a broader shift of sports from broadcast to cableŚwould come two years earlier than initially planned under a 14-year, joint National Collegiate Athletic Association broadcast deal struck between the two companies three years ago. And it would provide a big boost for Time Warner as it enters a round of negotiations next year with pay-television operators that carry its channels, analysts say. The company has said it expects Turner's fee revenue from pay-TV providers to increase at a double-digit annual pace between 2013 and 2016.
Time Warner doesn't own a national 24-hour sports channel like some of its media-industry rivals. But its stable of sports content, including professional basketball and baseball games, has grown in recent years. Adding the NCAA men's basketball Final Four and championship game to its roster in 2014 "would be a massive positive for them," said David Bank, a media analyst at RBC Capital Markets. Turner could position its NCAA content as "must-have programming" for cable and satellite operators, he added. This year's ratings for the tournament will help that argument. Heading into Final Four weekend, the NCAA men's basketball tournament was averaging a total of 9.7 million viewers per game, up 11% over last year and the highest level since 1994.Tournament games have been among the highest-rated programs on TV for the past few weeks, according to Nielsen figures. The "Elite Eight" quarterfinal matchup of the University of Louisville and Duke University on March 31 was the day's top-rated program, drawing 15.6 million viewers. The men's championship game has averaged more than 20 million total viewers over the past five years, according to Nielsen.
The three-week NCAA men's basketball tournament, a stretch of 67 games known as March Madness, attracts large audiences drawn to its compelling storylines. There are heated school rivalries, spectacular buzzer-beating finishes and scrappy teams that outperform expectations, such as Wichita State University, whose low-seeded Shockers advanced to this year's Final Four before losing a close game to Louisville on Saturday. Louisville's Cardinals will face the University of Michigan Wolverines in Monday's championship game. CBS and Turner are in the third year of their $10.8 billion deal to jointly air games. Before the deal, CBS broadcast one game at a time in any given market, cutting in to show developments in other games. Now, with the addition of Turner's networks, all early-round games are shown. The companies mix their on-air talent: CBS's Jim Nantz and Clark Kellogg call the Final Four and championship games along with Turner's Steve Kerr, for example. Expansion of the game broadcasts has increased the number of advertising slots available for the 75-year-old tournament.
Partly as a result, advertising revenue, which CBS and Turner split under their deal, has grown briskly; it rose 38% last year to reach $1 billion, according to ad-tracking firm Kantar Media. And sharing the deal's costs helped CBS avoid a "sizable loss" on NCAA tournament coverage that the broadcaster was contemplating before it struck its agreement with Turner, CBS Chief Executive Les Moonves said at an industry conference in 2010. He said the Turner deal "saves our bacon." Both companies declined to comment on the profitability of the NCAA tournament telecasts and on predictions about future ratings trends. The shift of the final rounds from CBS to Turner was envisioned in the original deal, but beginning in 2016. As part of the shift, Turner would start showing half of the Elite Eight games and the companies would alternate coverage of the Final Four and the championship game, which draw the largest audiences. There was an option in the deal to advance the plan to 2014, an idea the companies are discussing, the people say. Sports Business Daily earlier reported that Turner could start broadcasting the tournament's final rounds as soon as 2014.
If the Final Four shifts to cable, it would follow "Monday Night Football," college football's Bowl Championship Series games and golf's British Open among the sporting events that have moved from broadcast networks to cable telecasts in recent years. In 2014, News Corp's Fox will shift Major League Baseball's League Championship Series that it now televises on its broadcast network to the Fox Sports 1 cable channel it is launching later this year. The World Series will remain on the Fox broadcast network. News Corp. owns Dow Jones & Co., publisher of The Wall Street Journal.
There is a risk, some analysts say, that Turner's cable networks could lose some of the broadcast audience that now tunes into the tournament semifinals and finals on CBS. Jon Swallen, chief research officer for Kantar Media, said many factors could affect ratings, including which schools are facing off. But he said there is some evidence that major sporting events experience slight ratings declines when they move from broadcast to cable. Other analysts said the risk of a ratings decline if the final rounds switch to Turner's channels is limited. "If you're a big fan, you're going to find it on cable," said Michael Nathanson, a media analyst at Nomura Securities. Wall Street Journal
This summer, the discussion of the legality of the voter-identification legislation will continue in Commonwealth Court. The key question is whether the state has made it possible for all legal voters to get an ID. The answer to that question is: yes. Free photo identification is available at any of the 71 Department of Transportation driver's license centers across the state for those who sign a form stating that they have no other identification acceptable for voting.
Two options for identification are then available. The first is a Department of State voter-ID card. These photo IDs - available to registered voters - are valid for voting only, and are good for 10 years. To obtain the card, you need only give your name, date of birth, Social Security number, and address. That's all. It's the same information you need to register to vote - and PennDot will confirm your voter registration when you apply for the card. There is no paper documentation needed. The second option is a PennDot nondriver photo ID.
To obtain this form of ID, you need a Social Security card; two proofs of residency, such as a utility or tax bill; and either a birth certificate with a raised seal, a valid U.S. passport, or a certificate of naturalization to prove citizenship. (If you were born in Pennsylvania but don't have a birth certificate with a raised seal, PennDot will confirm your birth record electronically.) If you have an expired PennDot ID, just give your name and date of birth to the customer service representative, and your previous record will be confirmed and a new identification card issued. On May 21, the day of Pennsylvania's primary election, voters again will be asked for identification, but they will not be required to have an ID to vote. However, in anticipation of a decision from the court on voter ID, our goal is to ensure that any legal voter wanting an ID can obtain one. That is precisely what Pennsylvania has done. philly.com
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