Saturday, April 17, 2010

An Expanded Tournament Finds Its Partners?

While the NCAA denies anything about negotiations and the size of future NCAA tournaments, Sports Business Journal has reported that a joint bid by CBS and Turner is substantially higher than the bid that ESPN has made by about $40 million and ESPN will not increase its bid.

Nothing has been brought up as to how the entities would share the tournament, though the analysis speculates that CBS and Turner will alternate the Final Four. TNT, TBS and TruTV, the channel formerly known as CourtTV, will be likely destinations for these games. Coupled with CBS as an outlet, that should spell the end to DirecTV's run of their Mega March Madness package.

Items to be ironed out include who will have games on what days. Presumably CBS College Sports will not be involved if Turner is going to be the primary cable partner. If CBSC were included, I could see CBS ceding all weekday coverage of the tournament to cable and staying on as the weekend carrier. Another thing that will be discussed is the digital strategy of the games. CBS has done very well with their ad-supported model of streaming the tournament online and the NCAA has supposedly been receptive to Turner's web strategy with both and A strong web presence was vital to any new bid and the NCAA is concerned about that branding of that presence, which would be more ESPN-branded using the service.

At the end of the day, the NCAA will get their money, CBS may end up losing less money on the tournament and Turner will get some great sports content that they can sell excellent ad time for. The question is now whether the audience, already bemoaning the possibility of a 96 team tournament, will still be as transfixed for these games.

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