March Madness Musings

On March 18, truTV will tip off coverage of the First Four, marking the start of the fourth year of the 14-year, $10.8 billion rights deal between CBS Sports and Turner Sports for the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball National Championship. Whereas CBS previously presented the early rounds of the tournament in a whip-around fashion, the broadcaster, TBS, TNT and truTV now combine to televise all 67 contests in their own national windows. On March 11, at NCAA media day in New York, CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus noted that the 2013 version of March Madness registered the event’s best Nielsen marks across all windows since 1994, when the tourney averaged 11.2 million viewers. Last year, March Madness netted 10.7 million viewers, versus 9.6 million in 2012 and 10.2 million in 2011, the fi rst year Turner and CBS teamed up. This year, TBS will air the Final Four on April 5, marking the first time a cable network has televised the national semifinals. Turner Broadcasting System president David Levy said that telecast will be flanked by “Teamcasts” on TNT and truTV, showcasing their own camera angles, with games calls coming from local radio or cable announcers from the participating teams, and separate pre-game and halftime shows. Questions about how many viewers those telecasts will cume and who will cut down the nets at AT&T Stadium in North Texas on April 7 will be answered shortly. Let the Madness begin.