CBS and Turner’s March Madness Venture Has Sound Basis

As CBS Sports and Turner Sports venture together on a radical new way to telecast the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament games, the networks’ audio departments are providing a technical anchor.

CBS and Turner, via the latter’s TBS, TNT, and truTV channels, will jointly cover all 67 games at all eight venues this year, giving the tourney its first fully comprehensive airing. Previously, CBS held the broadcast rights to every game in the tournament. During the first round, the network chose the best game to air and offered periodic look-ins on the games not being aired start to finish.

The new arrangement couldn’t have found a better match between sound departments, says Bruce Goldfeder, director of engineering for CBS Sports: “We are probably the most compatible two organizations out there as far as engineering goes, especially audio. We both do 5.1+2, we have the same track layouts and the same-level [protocols]; so it’s very easy to integrate our remotes, our backhauls.”

In fact, the two nets also share many freelancers: A1s Pat Thornton and Dave Grundvig, who mix football and basketball for both networks, as well as several technical managers. That, notes Goldfeder, will ensure a high degree of consistency in the mixes and overall sound of the games.

Tom Sahara, VP of operations and technology at Turner Sports, says the two audio departments also have similar surround-mixing philosophies. “We both go for a very enveloping environment type of mix.”

Both networks are using the remote vehicles they normally use for sports broadcasts. Turner has its own trucks, and CBS Sports will use vehicles from NEP, Corplex, NCP, and F&F Productions. Audio will be coordinated through CBS’s facility in New York City, where commercials will be inserted. (Ad sales for the venture are buys across both networks.) Signal will then be sent via fiber to Turner in Atlanta, which will distribute it to its channel headends.

CBS and Turner have collaborated on sports broadcasts before. Sahara notes that the networks have worked together on the preliminary rounds of the PGA Championships. But he adds that the NCAA broadcasts are considerable more complex and the mesh between the networks is deeper and more complex. For instance, the announce crews will use talent from both networks in some cases, and, since the venues are assigned prior to the networks’ choosing specific games to broadcast, CBS could air a game from a Turner-crewed site or vice versa.

What’s not different this year is that microphones are still not allowed on players or coaches, per NCAA rules.

“The desire is there,” says Sahara, “just not the permission.”