With veteran TV executive and Millburn resident Steve Herbst at the helm for the past two years, CBS College Sports Network is now available in more homes (89 million) and has more partnerships with leagues and institutions than ever as it fights its way through the crowded cable TV landscape.
From football and basketball to baseball, softball and lacrosse, CBS C broadcasts many different NCAA sports from all three divisions, including occasional appearances by New Jersey schools, highlighted by a live women's basketball game between Bloomfield and Caldwell in March.
New Jersey residents receive the channel via Cablevision (Ch. 143, 412 and 793 HD), Comcast (Ch. 732 and 854 HD), Verizon FiOS (Ch. 94), DirecTV (Ch. 613) and Dish Network (Ch. 152).
Herbst, the Executive Vice President and General Manager of CBS C, formerly was Senior Vice President, Broadcasting and General Manager of NBA TV after serving in a variety of broadcasting roles for the league over the past 20 years.He recently took some time to talk about CBS C and his role in its recent growth.
NJNR: What attracted you to working with CBS College Sports Network?
SH: I've always loved college sports and I thought joining CBS College was a great opportunity to be part of a relatively young Network with huge potential that's part of the powerful CBS Sports brand.
NJNR: It seems that every Saturday during football and basketball season there are dozens of games on networks across the dial. How can CBS College Sports stand out?
SH: We have a solid, deep schedule filled with compelling matchups from the Mountain West Conference, Conference USA and the three service academies, as well as Division II. We produce all of our football games in HD and at the high quality that everyone expects from CBS. We support our live game action with a full studio day, covering the entire landscape of college football. And we bring fans all of this coverage with an elite roster of experienced studio and game talent.
NJNR: What sports outside of basketball and football have shown the most promise on the network? Is there enough interest in college baseball, volleyball and some other sports to keep the network viable?
SH: We love our array of Olympic sports, and two we have focused on since the inception of the network are lacrosse and hockey. Lacrosse is one of the fastest growing sports nationally, while college hockey is rooted with traditions and rivalries. Both sports translate well on TV with fast-paced action, great atmospheres and devoted fans.
NJNR: How will the steady presence of Army football on the network affect viewership?
SH: We cherish our relationship with Army and all the academies. These young men and women represent some of the finest people this country has to offer and we are proud to be associated with institutions like West Point that are at the top of the list as it pertains to athletics and academics. Army has a rich football history, a loyal fan base and one of the best game day atmospheres. The Black Knights had a good season last year and we're excited for the second year as Army's television partner.
NJNR: How will the changing landscape of the BCS conferences affect the network's lineup and operations? Do you see a threat from the potential creation of other networks like the Big Ten has done?
SH: We've created an infrastructure here now that allows us to move quickly if there are changes in conference composition. We already have great relationships with our conference partners and we're committed to working together to make each deal a success. As far as conferences starting networks, we co-founded along with Comcast the first-ever collegiate conference TV Network - The Mtn. (MountainWest Sports Network) and we look forward to growing it with them.
NJNR: What have been some of the factors in CBS College Sports Network's being picked up by systems since your appointment?
SH: High quality programming and production, a superior distribution team along with a seamless production and business relationship with CBS Sports have all been huge factors in our growth.
NJNR: What are some of the lessons from NBA TV that you have taken with you to CBS C?
SH: How to run a business properly with acute attention to detail, an understanding of how to manage and motivate people and how to present a product in a first-class way.
NJNR: How does CBS C keep interest in the network during the summer, when college sports are on hold?
SH: The passion of college fans carry us throughout the summer so even as we face a challenge with a lack of live events, we more than make up for it with encore airings of some of our best events, an early look at the coming football season and programming surrounding the ALT GAMES, which is our popular showcase of college action sports championships, including beach volleyball, wakeboarding and snowboarding among others.
NJNR: What are some of the partnerships that have most helped establish the network?
SH: Internally, our work with CBS Sports across all platforms is essential for success. In addition, all of our conference partners along with the power of the service academies have been key to our growth. We're always on the lookout for new compelling college sports content that we can add to our programming line-up.
NJNR: Are there any new original programs on tap, like a college SportsCenter-type show?
SH: Last year we launched The Tony Barnhart Show and brought back the SEC Tailgate show. We look forward to continuing our studio and original programming and bringing back a line-up this fall that will be just as strong.
NJNR: Will the slightly expanded NCAA Men's Basketball tournament mean a few games might be on the network?
SH: There are no live games for us in this deal, but we will continue to cover the tournament with our studio and original programming units, offering comprehensive coverage and in-depth analysis.
NJNR: This year there were some Division II basketball games on the network, including a women's game between Caldwell College and Bloomfield College. Will we see more non-Division I games on the network in the future?
SH: We will continue to cover Division II and Division III events when it makes sense. We've received terrific feedback covering those games and enjoy detailing the hard work and will to win that all of these athletes represent.