BREAKING NEWS: CBS/Turner To Air NCAA Tournament

This just coming in now, it’s been confirmed that CBS Sports and Turner will combine to air the NCAA Tournament starting in 2011. It’s a 14 year contract, but terms have not been announced.

I received an e-mail from both CBS Sports and Turner Sports announcing a conference call at 12:30 today which will unveil the multimedia rights agreement between the NCAA and CBS/Turner.

Steve Wieberg and Michael Hiestand of USA Today say the new contract will most likely exceed the current $710 million that CBS is currently paying for the tournament.

From the reports I’ve been reading prior to today, it’s likely that CBS and Turner will alternate coverage of the Final Four. The tournament will be expanded from 65 teams, but it’s not known if that will reach 96 teams as speculated or fewer.

It appears that Turner Interactive would take over the March Madness on Demand feature that has been powered by CBS over the last few years.

More channels would air the tournament including TBS, TNT and truTV along with your local CBS affiliate.

I’ll monitor the conference call and bring you highlights as it happens.

UPDATE, 12:00 p.m.: Sports Business Journal’s John Ourand has learned that Turner (mainly TBS) will begin airing the Final Four and Championship Game on even years starting in 2016.

UPDATE, 12:09 p.m.: I now have the official press release that has been sent by the NCAA, CBS and Turner Sports. CBS will keep March Madness on Demand, but Turner gets to stream  games from what I understand.

The release comes up after the jump.


CBS SPORTS, TURNER BROADCASTING SYSTEM, INC. AND THE NATIONAL COLLEGIATE ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION REACH 14-YEAR AGREEMENT FOR DIVISION I MEN’S BASKETBALL CHAMPIONSHIP

Agreement Includes Television, Internet, Wireless and Marketing Rights Through 2024
INDIANAPOLIS— The NCAA today announced a new 14-year television, internet and wireless rights agreement with CBS Sports and Turner Broadcasting System, Inc., to present the Division I Men’s Basketball Championship beginning in 2011 through 2024 for more than $10.8 billion. As part of the agreement, all games will be shown live across four national networks beginning in 2011 – a first for the 73-year old championship.
Additionally, CBS Sports and Turner Broadcasting have been licensed and will collaborate on the NCAA’s corporate marketing program.  

Late Wednesday, the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee unanimously passed a recommendation to the Division I Board of Directors to increase tournament field size to 68 teams beginning with the 2011 Championship. The recommendation will be reviewed by the Division I Board of Directors at its April 29 meeting.
The new agreement sustains the long-term financial stability of the Association.  As with the current contract, approximately 96 percent of the revenue generated from this new agreement will be used to benefit student-athletes through either programs, services or direct distribution to member conferences and schools. Further, the agreement ensures student-athletes across all three NCAA divisions will continue to be supported in a broad range of championship opportunities, access to funds for personal and educational needs, and through scholarships in Divisions I and II.
Beginning with the 2011 championship, opening- , first- and second-round games will be shown nationally on CBS, TBS, TNT and truTV.  CBS and Turner will split coverage of the regional semi-final games.  CBS will provide coverage of the regional finals, as well as the Final Four® including the National Championship Game through 2015. Beginning in 2016, coverage of the regional finals will be split by CBS and Turner with the Final Four and the National Championship game alternating every year between the CBS Television Network and Turner’s TBS.
CBS Sports has broadcast the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship since 1982. This year’s broadcast of the Championship game earned an average national household rating/share of 14.2/23, up 31% from a 10.8/18 last year, the highest rating in five years.
Under the new rights agreement, NCAA March Madness on Demand®, the Emmy Award-winning video player that provides live streaming video of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship, will continue to be launched from NCAA.com and CBSSports.com.  Turner has also secured the rights for any Time Warner digital property. The player will be operated and developed by Turner and have enhanced digital rights allowing the NCAA to deliver content for multiple Turner and Time Warner platforms.

“This is an important day for intercollegiate athletics and the 400,000 student-athletes who compete in NCAA sports,” said NCAA Interim President Jim Isch. “This agreement will provide on average more than $740 million annually to our conferences and member schools to help student-athletes in 23 sports learn and compete.”
“We’re excited this agreement continues our long-standing relationship with CBS, a partner company that has captured the unique spirit of the collegiate model of athletics, and brings a new partner in Turner Broadcasting to the Championship and NCAA basketball,” added Isch.
“This agreement with our colleagues at Turner and the NCAA secures CBS’s standing as a year-round leader in sports television well into the next decade,” said Sean McManus, president of CBS News and Sports. 
“In this agreement, we have created a new strategic partnership that not only makes this prestigious property an ongoing core asset in our stable of major television events, but a profitable one as well.  We look forward to working with our friends at Turner as together we combine our industry-leading media assets to maximize the value of this great NCAA Championship.”

“This is a landmark deal for Turner Broadcasting and we’re extremely pleased to begin a long-term relationship with the NCAA and our partners at CBS and to have a commitment that extends well into the next decade,” said David Levy, president of sales, distribution and sports, Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. “The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament has a rich tradition and is one of the most talked about sporting events every year highlighted by the Final Four and the National Championship Game.”
“We are well-positioned to monetize our investment in NCAA programming across three nationally distributed networks.  With the combined linear and digital assets of these two large media companies we’ll be able to maximize the exposure of the Tournament, as well as provide incomparable access for viewers. “
Moving forward under the new contract, a committee headed by Harvey Perlman, University of Nebraska-Lincoln chancellor, will study and recommend prospective revenue distribution formulas to the Division I Board of Directors. Under the current contract, 96 percent of all NCAA revenue is returned to membership either in direct payments or in programs and services. The committee will follow principles of the current formula that ensure access to funds by student-athletes for educational, personal and emergency needs; that favor a broad-based approach to sports sponsorship; that continue to encourage more grants-in-aid rather than less; and that promote enhanced academic support of student-athletes.
Additionally, given the NCAA emphasis on academic reform, the committee will examine the need to strike a balance between Division I men’s basketball championship performance and academic achievement through either the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate or Graduation Success Rate metrics or both.

ESPN, the long-standing home for NCAA Championships such as the Division I Women’s Basketball Championship, College World Series, Frozen Four and others, will continue to broadcast a full complement of events over the coming years as well.

            “The economic challenges of the day are being felt on campuses across the country. The amount of revenue from this agreement isn’t the focus of this moment, rather it is the long-term security it provides as well as what is done with the money. We put our money where our mission is…supporting student-athletes so they can be successful in the classroom and in life,” said Isch.

The conference call starts at 12:30 p.m. I’ll monitor and post highlights here.

UPDATE, 12:20 p.m.: Here is ESPN’s quick statement on losing the bidding to the NCAA Tournament.

ESPN Statement on NCAA

We made an aggressive bid and believe our combination of TV distribution, digital capabilities, season-long coverage and year-round marketing would have served the interests of the NCAA and college fans very well. We remain committed to our unparalleled coverage of more than 1,200 men’s and women’s college basketball games each season.

That’s it.

Ken Fang

About Ken Fang

Ken has been covering the sports media in earnest at his own site, Fang's Bites since May 2007 and at Awful Announcing since March 2013. He provides a unique perspective having been an award-winning radio news reporter in Providence and having worked in local television. Fang celebrates the three Boston Red Sox World Championships in the 21st Century, but continues to be a long-suffering Cleveland Browns fan.

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