Sportscasting: Not in the Same League

In sports telecasts, the biggest network doesn't necessarily win. CBS crowed last week that its Super Bowl coverage pulled nearly 70 million viewers, the largest TV audience ever for a sporting event. But that had less to do with the quality of its coverage than with the irresistibility of the attraction.

During the football season, CBS's coverage was rarely in the same league with the other networks. Yet its games averaged 17 million viewers v. NBC's 9,000,000 and ABC's 6,300,000. The reason is simply that CBS outbid the competition for the established, sure-draw National Football League, while NBC settled for...