Team(cast) Effort: Turner Sports, CBS Plan Team-Specific Final Four Productions

In North Texas on Saturday, a lot will change, and, yet, a lot will stay exactly the same. For the first time since 1981, the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament National Semifinals will air on a network other than CBS. And yet “The Eye” couldn’t be more involved.

final-four-logoTurner Sports and CBS Sports will again team up to provide coverage of Saturday’s Final Four matchups between Florida and Connecticut (6:09 p.m. ET) and Wisconsin and Kentucky (approximately 8:49 p.m.) from AT&T Stadium. Only this time — and for the first time in the event’s 76-year history — the games will air on a cable network. The main national broadcasts will air on TBS, and a pair of highly touted, team-specific “Teamcasts” will air on TNT and truTV.

Three simultaneous broadcasts of the same events on a single family of networks will obviously change the on-site production dramatically. More cameras will cover this Final Four than any in the past, and the truck compound will balloon to include three A units. It’s all in an effort to bring about new, innovative ways for viewers to experience the Final Four.

“We’re trying to create as much access and bring [the viewer] as close to the court as we possibly can,” says Craig Barry, SVP, production, Turner Sports. “As we continue to move forward in this partnership, I think we all share the philosophy that we are only as good as our last Final Four. So always pushing the production to bigger and better places is something that we’re all very passionate about.”

The main national game telecast that viewers are accustomed to will air on TBS and will be produced out of a top mobile unit from the F&F Productions fleet.

"We all share the philosophy that we are only as good as our last Final Four." — Craig Barry, Turner Sports

“We all share the philosophy that we are only as good as our last Final Four.” — Craig Barry, Turner Sports

Technological enhancements will be highlighted by the college-basketball debut of the freeD replay system designed by Replay Technologies. Turner got some experience with the 360-degree camera-stitching system during its coverage of the NBA All-Star Game in February, and the system was a natural fit for Final Four because the system is already installed at AT&T Stadium from its use on Dallas Cowboys games.

CBS Sports Executive Producer/VP, Production, Harold Bryant noted that there would be a strong presence of the slow-motion–camera technology, including super-slow-motion on the robotic units fixed above each backboard. The crew has also added additional slo-mos on the floor to capture a more intimate feel in what is a very large venue.

“This is going to be a very highly produced, high-end production,” he says.

As for the Teamcasts, Turner and CBS will air simultaneous broadcasts on TNT and truTV, each providing a “hometown” broadcast for a participating team. The special features lined up by the networks include on-air announcers, graphics, replays, and studio sets that will make the fans of Florida, Connecticut, Wisconsin, and Kentucky feel right at home.

“We want to create a more energetic and more team-focused approach to the Final Four,” says Barry. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to create a really dynamic broadcast that will be interesting to watch not just for alumni and fans of that team but for all viewers that want to switch over and watch a few minutes of it and enjoy that level of energy and a different approach.”

“This is going to be a very highly produced, high-end production.” — Harold Bryant, CBS

“This is going to be a very highly produced, high-end production.” — Harold Bryant, CBS

According to Bryant, the Teamcasts will use 90%-95% of the main telecast cameras available. Those cameras will be supplemented with a few that will focus on the respective team’s coach, fan sections, and in-action isos for replays.

Game Creek Video is providing the A units that will be used for the Teamcast productions. Each telecast (on TBS, TNT, and truTV) will essentially be a separate show with its own producer/director team and production staff. Turner will provide its own HD production truck to serve as the home of the on-site pregame, halftime, and postgame shows.

For the National Championship on Monday night, TBS will televise three hours of pregame coverage beginning at 3 p.m. ET. CBS will broadcast the National Championship on Monday April 7 with pregame coverage live from AT&T Stadium beginning at 8:30 p.m. and the game tipping off at 9:10 p.m.

Beginning tomorrow, SVG will be on-site at AT&T Stadium in North Texas reporting from the Final Four. Visit sportsvideo.org throughout the weekend for in-depth, continuing coverage of one of sports television’s biggest basketball productions ever.