Turner Sports, CBS Outline March Madness Plans

Turner Sports and CBS Sports detailed their plans for the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship tournament, which begins in earnest on March 18. Included are details on plans for the Final Four weekend, which, for the first time ever, not only will be exclusively on cable TV but will feature three simultaneous broadcasts of the Final Four games.

NCAA_March_Madness_logoThis is an exciting year for us and is the crescendo for what we talked about, as this is not broadcast versus cable but an equal partnership,’ says Turner Broadcasting President David Levy. “We could not be more excited about this, and there is a bounce in our step in Atlanta that is terrific.”

TBS will exclusively televise the 2014 NCAA Final Four on Saturday April 5 with live game action beginning at 6 p.m. ET from AT&T Stadium in North Texas, marking the first time in the event’s history that the national semifinal games will be televised on a cable network.

Additionally, for the first time, Turner Sports and CBS will showcase Final Four games live across three networks: TBS, TNT, and truTV. The NCAA Final Four “Teamcast” will feature team-specific telecasts airing live on TNT and truTV. The Teamcast productions will be tailored specifically to the teams competing, to provide fans with a variety of viewing options for this year’s marquee event.

“We are constantly trying to change what we do, and this year it is the Teamcast,” says Levy. “There will be custom pregame and halftime shows done out of three trucks with different talent, and it’s also a huge opportunity to talk on social media.”

CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus says that both CBS and Turner Sports set aggressive goals in terms of revenues and promotional heft for the first three years of the relationship.

“We have far exceeded expectations in every category,” he says. “Last year’s ratings numbers were shocking, as we had record ratings in every window. That is really good from a ratings and relationship standpoint, and it bodes well for the present and the future.”

Although production details will become available in the coming days, the talent picture became clearer today. In terms of game coverage, Greg Anthony will move courtside and work alongside Jim Nantz through the quarterfinals and then also with Steve Kerr for the Final Four and Championship Game. Additionally, Andrew Catalon will join the play-by-play team and will work alongside Mike Giminski and Otis Livingston for second- and third-round action.

In terms of studio roles, Clark Kellogg will move to the studio, and Ernie Johnson will host studio coverage for the Final Four and Championship Game. Grant Hill also joins the team as a studio analyst.

“It’s the best of Turner and CBS talent,” says McManus, “and the results speak for themselves as we are blessed with studio hosts like Ernie [Johnson] and Greg [Gumbel], who are two of the best in the business.”

One talent area that has not been determined yet is who will work on the Teamcast broadcasts.

“Ultimately, when we get down to the Sweet 16, we have a good understanding of who will be there, as we want to give a local flavor with local radio or cable announcers,” says Levy. “And we’re not just filling play-by-play and analyst roles but also pregame and halftime. And, for [the latter], we don’t have to use local talent but could use a celebrity who knows the school.”

Waiting until the Sweet 16 means it will be a quick turnaround to hire talent and get them ready for the big game.

“It’s going to be a challenging few weeks as we will have a lot of holes to fill. Remember, we have four teams playing,” Levy adds. “But we’re looking forward to it.”

In addition, the national Championship Game broadcast begins at 8:30 instead of 9 p.m. ET.

“That allows us a full pregame show,” says McManus. “Tipoff will be at 9:10 instead of 9:28, and that is good for everyone as it avoids a late finish, and a full half-hour pregame is a really good step as well.