Highlights of CBS/Turner/NCAA Conference Call

I’m monitoring the conference call being held by the NCAA which announces the long-term agreement between CBS/Turner Sports and the NCAA for the NCAA Tournament.

Jim Isch, interim President of the NCAA; Sean McManus, President of CBS News and Sports and David Levy, President of Turner Sports are in attendance.

Isch begins by saying the agreement begins in 2011 and lasts until 2024. The total amount being paid is $10.8 billion. That’s ten-point-eight billion dollars. That’s a lot of money.

Isch says it was a competitive bidding. Says he’s glad to keep CBS in the fold and happy to bring Turner Sports to the NCAA table.

Sean McManus of CBS Sports says CBS CEO Leslie Moonves championed this deal. Says the NCAA Tournament is a jewel for the network for 29 years. The partnership will lead to more exposure for the tournament especially for the fan and the viewer. National viewing for every game.

Says the contract also gives CBS some financial stability (and some relief, my words). McManus says he looks forward to working with Turner Sports on the NCAA Tournament. Says he’s excited about this partnership.

David Levy of Turner Sports says it’s a landmark deal for Turner Broadcasting. Levy says he’s pleased to be part of a long-term agreement with the NCAA and CBS. With the combined resources, the viewers gets unprecedented access. Says a lot of hard work went to making this deal.

This enhances Turner’s place in the sports marketplace. Levy says the Tournament has a rich tradition and will enhance TBS, TNT and tru TV. Says the Tournament outgrew one network’s ability to televise the tournament. Now all of the games nationally televised will give each game national attention.

Looks forward to having the Final Four on TBS in 2016.

Greg Shaheen of NCAA says this is a landmark opportunity for intercollegiate athletics.

Questions:

Jim Williams from Washington Examiner: How long did it take to make this deal?

Sean says it started actually back in October. CBS and Turner are partners in the PGA Championship.

Levy says the partnership actually goes back over the 1990’s for the Olympics.

From the Columbus Dispatch, why expand to just 68 teams, not 96?

Greg Shaheen of the NCAA says it was important to look at possible fields and conversations were made about all options and the pros and cons of the expanded tournament. Ultimately, he looked at the partnerships and wanted to meet all purposes.

Jim Isch says no decision has been made to go to 96 teams.

Mike DeCourcy of the Sporting News. How will the field be structured?

Greg says the Division I coaches will decide that by mid-summer.

Mike DeCourcy asks if CBS and Turner are comfortable with the field and the amount of games to justify the economics.

David Levy says Turner would not have entered if that was considered.

Mike asks if 96 teams are needed to make the deal work.

Both Levy and McManus say no.

Richard Sandomir of the New York Times asks for revenue splits and is Turner bailing out CBS?

Levy says no. All revenue and expenses will be shared.

McManus says CBS was ready to do the last 3 years of the deal, but it would have been very expensive. Says the new deal works out very well from a financial standpoint.

David Barron of Houston Chronicle asks who will handle the production, CBS? Turner? Or shared production?

Sean says that will be decided in the coming year. Subject to discussion. Both CBS and Turner are used to producing their own events. It will be coordinated from one location, but it will be a joint production between CBS and Turner.

Levy says it will have one look, but there will be separate branding.

Barron asks if the Tournament has outgrown CBS.

McManus says no, but fans are used to watching all games and CBS needed a cable partner. The challenge was to keep the property on CBS in a meaningful way, but also increase the revenue. It’s a perfect deal for the NCAA, CBS and Turner.

Michael Hiestand of USA Today asks if the games will be live online.

Levy says all the details will be worked out and people will want games online.

Jim Carlisle of the Ventura County Star asks how difficult was it to divide the Final Four between CBS and Turner?

McManus says it was important to get the deal done.

Carlisle asks if DirecTV deal is done?

McManus says that will be worked out.

Brian Steinberg of Advertisting Age asks how will revenue be shared and sales?

Levy says there will be a combined sales staff to work on selling.

McManus says there will be a unified sales team for this event. CBS has experience in selling ads and being part of the NCAA Corporate Partner program.

Steinberg says does this mean more expensive ads?

Sean says the price has always gone up.

Steinberg asks if a broadcast network can still show a marquee sports event on its own?

McManus says that has to be looked at individually. What is the best economic model? Refers to SEC deal that allowed CBS to keep exclusive afternoon rights but also allowed ESPN to do itsown rights deal.

Milton Kent of Fanhouse asks about the Final Four going to cable and will Turner be a player for other events?

Levy says the TV world has changed and top tier sports events will appear on both network and cable TV. Sports will continue to gravitate to cable.

McManus says the NCAA Tournament is not leaving network TV. It’s still on network TV. This is an opportunity work with cable and give the viewer what they want.

Levy says the event will be covered by four networks, not just one anymore.

Milton asks if the tournament expands, can the networks expand as well?

McManus says yes, there is flexibility.

Dana O’Neill of ESPN.com asks about if the 68 team field for the life of this TV contract or will there eventually be expansion to 96?

Greg Shaheen says 68 is where things will stay for now.

Jim Isch says recommendations for 68 will be made with the clear understanding it will begin with the 2011 tournament. It’s at the NCAA’s discretion for field size. No look ahead right now for duration.

Dana asks if 96 team field is still in play.

Greg says no consideration of that right now.

Steve Wieberg of USA Today asks if the agreement intengent on the board approving expanding to at least 68?

Jim says no. Not intengent.

Steve asks if he’s confident that the committee will recommend 68 team field.

Jim says it’s expected to be approved.

Anthony Crupi of Mediaweek asks why TBS is not airing the Final Four until 2016?

Levy says it’s an arrangement with the NCAA and CBS and since the event is being shared, sometimes being on CBS will deliver more ratings in the early years.

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald asks about cut-ins into other games on CBS. Will viewers be switched to another game?

Sean says they are national games. They will remain. No cut-ins to other games, but there will be limited look-ins.

Barry asks will CBS handle one night and Turner another?

Sean says there has been discussions on that, but for now, CBS and Turner will air games simultaneously.

Mike Reynolds of Multichannel News asks about bidding for other NCAA Championships?

NCAA official says now others will be put up for bid, but not for now. Most will be on ESPN for the next three years. There’s a variety of options for the other championships at a later date.

Mike asks if CBS
and Turner would be interested in other NCAA Championships?

Both Levy and McManus answer yes.

Diane Pucin of LA Times asks about some people losing some games to cable?

Levy says TBS, TNT and truTV are fully distributed national networks. Most leagues feel no need to change it back.

From Inside Higher Education, asking about making the NCAA Tournament more commercial and how to reconcile making this an educational event?

Jim Isch says the late (NCAA President) Myles Brand would be proud of the agreement. The dollars will help support the student athletes. Plus the money from the contract gives out scholarships to student athetes.

Kevin McNamara of the Providence Journal asks how important for the NCAA to have all games on national TV.

Jim says it was a goal from the beginning. The membership wanted all games on TV and be seen across the country.

Neil Best of Newsday asks if the NIT will remain unchanged?

Jim says the NIT will continue.

Gary Parish of CBSSports.com says it appeared that 96 teams was a done deal. What made the NCAA move to recommend down to 68 teams?

Greg Shaheen of NCAA says discussion of 96 was to put the idea out there. But at that time, the Division I basketball committee never made a recommendation to expand until last night.

Ben Klayman of Reuters asks if NCAA exercised the opt out from the current deal.

Shaheen says the opt out has happened.

Sports Media Watch asks about cannibalization of ratings.

McManus says it will actually increase ratings now.

Will there be more collaboration between CBS and Turner?

Both are open to it.

John Ourand of Sports Business Journal asks why CBS College Sports isn’t involved in the deal?

McManus says the distribution of CBSC did not allow for it to be part of the contract, but it will still have a presence.


David Tanklefsky of Broadcasting & Cable asks if there could be any pushback from Washington in regards to Final Four going to cable.

Silence…..

Levy says doesn’t anticipate any pushback. All are fully distributed national network and doesn’t anticipate any pushback.

And that concludes the conference call.

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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