This has not been a great year for CBS Sports, and the Cincinnati Reds' four-game World Series sweep of the Oakland Athletics underlined the red ink written into the network's $1.08-billion baseball deal. "We could use a little better luck, for sure," CBS Sports president Neal Pilson said. Oakland lost four games straight, but CBS lost three unplayed Series games, and only got 14 of a possible 21 post-season games to broadcast.
Industry estimates pegged CBS' loss on the series as high as $150-million. "Under $100-million is, I think, a reasonable guess at this point," Pilson said.
John Reidy, a media analyst for Smith Barney, said his company was estimating CBS' fourth-quarter loss "in the $50-million-plus area," with an overall loss for the year of about $100-million.
"If they had gotten three more games, we figure they could have had an increased contribution to their profits on the order of $15-million to $20-million without too much difficulty," Reidy said.
This year all major sports contracts were up for renewal and, as 1990 began, CBS was looking to break out of its third-place prime-time standing with aggressive bidding for premium sports events.
CBS paid $1.08-billion for four years of baseball, part of a $3.6-billion package for NFL football, NCAA Tournament basketball, and the next two Winter Olympics. Some analysts said they paid too much for what they got.
"They bid up the price of prime-time sports too high to support the business that's out there," said John Rohr, a programming analyst for Blair Television, advertising representative for TV stations. "There's a lot more supply nowadays than there is demand."