CBS cuts away from the Miami final between Andy Murray and David Ferrer just prior to the third-set tiebreaker and moves the coverage to Tennis Channel, which has a far smaller reach than the network does. CBS was contractually obligated to show the Elite Eight NCAA basketball game between Michigan and Florida beginning at 2 pm EST. The Murray and Ferrer match began at 11:30 AM and lasted two hours and 45 minutes.
A CBS spokesman told TENNIS.com that the network pushed up the tip-off of the basketball game to 2:23 PM, and the tip-off didn't actually occur until 2:24 PM. CBS says that it made the switch to Tennis Channel at the last possible moment -- 2:17 PM -- in an attempt to accommodate both events, but that it needed a five-minute transition so it could not stay with the tennis match, which was won by Murray.
CBS also stated that it is the Miami tournament's decision to start the final at 11 EST next year to possibly avoid conflict with Elite Eight games. The NCAA moved its men's basketball tournament back a week this year, so Miami is forced to go up against a very popular sport during a key weekend.
“Although we wish the match could have been shown in its entirety we understand that these situations do arise,” Adam Barrett, Sony Open Tournament Director said in a statement. “We will continue to work with our television partners to provide the most complete television coverage to our global audience.”
TENNIS.com was also told that ESPN, which broadcast part of Miami and has a greater reach than Tennis Channel, did not want to take the option of broadcasting the rest of the men’s final if it went over its alloted time.
While big tennis tournaments are popular in the United States, they do not have the same size television audiences as some other popular sports do. CBS is said to pay $25 million annually for the U.S. Open, with Turner Broadcasting paying $771 million annually for men’s NCAA tournament rights.