March Madness: CBS To Move Up National Championship Tip Time

New York--The 2014 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship will culminate with TBS stepping into Final Four action for the first time in cable history, complemented by flanking "Teamcasts" from TNT and TruTV, while the National Championship Game will get a new start time.

At March Madness media day here at Essex House, CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus noted that the April 7 title tilt on CBS will be preceded by a full pre-game show, with Capital OneChampionship Central airing from 8:30 p.m. (ET)-9 p.m. That means the telecast from AT&T Stadium in North Texas (Jerry's World) will tip off at 9:10 p.m., 18 minutes before what has been its usual start in recent vintage. "We think this is going to be a big plus for viewers," said McManus of the earlier starting time for the matchup, which will mark CBS’s 33rd consecutive year televising the championship contest.

Last year, Turner exercised an option in its  2010 agreement with CBS that is enabling TBS to air Final Four games two years earlier than under the initial 14-year pact.

As such, TBS will be home to the semifinals for the first time on April 5, with game action slated for around 6 p.m. However, the “very funny” network won’t be going it alone. TruTV, which starts the tourney with the First Four on March 18-19 from Dayton, Ohio, and TNT, will air local Teamcasts of the Final Four action.

Turner Broadcasting president David Levy said the programmer will begin eyeing announcer talent from local radio and local cable vehicles after the Sweet 16 field is established. Moreover, each telecast will feature its own camera angles and pregame and halftime shows, which could showcase a celebrity alumni/alumnae from the participating schools.

"The most important thing is we want to get that local flavor. It's almost like a 'homer' type situation on a national basis."  said Levy, who noted Turner has received plenty of support from NCAA schools as the Teamcasts have been discussed.

One thing that will be the same: the ad units will be stripped into the adjoining Final Four telecasts of both games, with the ratings cuming thereunto.

Coverage of the regional finals games this year will be split by CBS and TBS, with the latter airing the action on Saturday, March 29, beginning at 6 p.m. and CBS televising the games on Sunday, March 30, starting at 2 p.m. 

All told, CBS will broadcast 22 games throughout the tournament, including the National Championship, Elite 8, Sweet 16 and second- and third-rounds.

TBS will televise 20 contests, including the Final Four, Elite 8, Sweet 16 and games in the second and third rounds.

For its part, TruTV, including the First Four, will air a total of 14 games also spanning the second and third rounds, along with the Final Four Teamcast, while TNT will televise 13 games, including second- and third-round matchups, plus the Final Four Teamcast.