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NCAAB: What Would A CBS/Turner NCAA Tournament Presentation Look Like? Please Let It Be This

April 17, 2010

SportsBusiness Journal has a piece today breaking the news that ESPN will not increase its bid for the NCAA Tournament, which paves the way for a joint bid by CBS and Turner. Yes, it would likely be a 96-team tournament.

CBS and Turner have a 14-year deal on the table that is worth more than the $710 million annual fee that CBS would have to pay over the last three years of the existing deal, source said. No deal has been formalized, though, and the NCAA still hopes to reengage ESPN in some way.

Here is the interesting part of a CBS/Turner joint venture:

The most likely scenario would have CBS and Turner telecasting each game nationally across at least four networks: CBS, TBS, TNT and truTV. Under this scenario, Turner and CBS would carry the Final Four in alternate years.

A few things: 1. We’d get an Olympic-style telecast setup where games would be spread out over a family of networks. 2. The national title game would actually be on Turner at some point. While the second point will be shocking to some, I’d like to focus on the first and what it means to your current viewing experience.

As it stands, your options are CBS, the DirecTV NCAA Mega March Madness package and March Madness On Demand on your computer. While the On Demand service on your computer would probably still exist, its reach would be somewhat hindered by all games being broadcast across those networks. You’d still pull all of the 9-to-5ers stuck at work, but what about Saturday and Sunday. No more worrying about watching on a small computer screen if you’re without DirecTV. Just flip over to one of the other networks. (If you’re balking at truTV, and I’m guessing a few of you are, SBJ‘s John Ourand points out the network is in 92 million homes and has a widely available HD channel.)

This would almost certainly mean the death of the Mega March Madness package, an idea that DirecTV must be none-to-thrilled about facing. As it stands, there’s no mention of DTV in the SBJ story. The only remaining feature not replicated over cable or broadcast would be the mix channel with four screens at once. Could that make its way to cable as well or would that be the lone value-added product on the DirecTV side of things? Presumably, the NCAA would make up that lost DirecTV revenue in whatever sort of increase they get from CBS/Turner. Still, DirecTV has really made a name for itself by differentiating itself from the competition by being the sports fan’s haven. This would be a blow to that sales pitch.

While I’d be incredibly disappointed that the field would expand to 96 teams, it gives me at least some consolation that networks would be footing the bill for Mega March Madness across the country rather than the consumers themselves. (No, I guess that doesn’t really lessen the sting of a 96-team tourney as much as I’d hoped it would.) You know what would make up for all of that? Create the greatest two man booth ever — Gus Johnson and Conan O’Brien — pictured at the top of the post.

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