One thing that we have generally reflexively known about the NCAA Tournament is that while a flurry of upsets makes for an exciting first few rounds, the elimination of blue blooded programs takes some of the juice out of the later rounds. But knowing that and hearing a television executive actually admit it out loud are two different things; CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus did just that on an appearance with Chris Russo on SiriusXM’s Mad Dog Unleashed on Friday:
“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.”
He said that on one side of the bracket they are alright given that Duke, Kansas, and Villanova have endured, but reiterated that the Kentucky loss was painful: “Losing Kentucky was not a good night in our control room.”
Again: Any of us could’ve guessed that this would have been McManus’s answer had he taken a sip of truth serum right before he was asked this question. But I can’t ever remember someone in his position admit something like that out loud before.
Dog then asked if the awesomeness of the Loyola story outweighed the fact that they are not a traditional powerhouse, and McManus said that it’s not a disaster because of the Chicago market but maintained that any number of blue blood programs would draw better television viewership. He also said that, much to the chagrin of just about everyone in the Eastern and Central time zones, CBS’s ratings are optimized by having the games start and end late.