CBS is asking its affiliates to contribute 5% of the $6 billion the network
agreed to pay the National Collegiate Athletic Association this year as
part of an 11-year deal to carry the NCAA Basketball Tournament.
At the CBS affiliate meeting in Las Vegas this week, affiliates and network
executives were trying to hammer out a compromise.
While stations are amenable to contributing to the NCAA deal in some way,
general managers said, it has not been decided how that contribution will be
"Some stations want an inventory exchange," said Bob Lee, president of the
CBS affiliates' board, "and others think cash is a more elegant solution."
CBS, along with the other three major broadcast networks, was also expected
to make a bid on the 2010 Winter Olympic Games and the 2012 Summer
If CBS were to win the bid, the network has informed affiliates that it also will
expect a financial contribution from them.
But CBS sources said the network is unlikely to bid aggressively for the
Olympics because it is happy with the performance of the sports packages it has,
including The Masters golf tournament; the National Football League's American Football Conference games, including the
championship; the men's NCAA Basketball Tournament; and the U.S. Open tennis
"We will need to determine the best interest of the CBS Television Network
and our affiliates before committing to any bid," said Sean McManus, president
of CBS Sports.
Peter Schruth, president of CBS affiliate relations, said any bid would be
"reasonable" and financially prudent.
TV stations are likely to be asked to contribute to the Olympics deal of
whatever network wins the bid, and NBC and ABC have already delivered their
contribution proposals to their affiliate boards, sources said.
Both NBC and ABC are expected to push hard for the Olympics.
NBC has a history of carrying the Games and has more money to spend on them
since it has backed off on airing other sports due to the expense.
ABC is said to be interested because parent company The Walt Disney Co. can air the games
around-the-clock on ABC's ESPN sister networks.
Station-group heads attending the CBS affiliate meeting said that for many of
them, which network wins the Olympic bid is irrelevant because they know the
winner will ask them to pony up.
Some of the largest station groups are comprised of affiliates from all
six networks, so helping one network over another makes no difference to
CBS affiliates already contribute to that network's NFL package, and McManus informed
them Thursday that "from time to time, we may need financial assistance from our
affiliates like we received for the NFL package," in a vague reference to the