NCAA Tournament gets a TV makeover
The 2011 NCAA Tournament — the one that culminates in Houston with the Final Four — figures to be the most watched Big Dance of all time.
That's because before all eyes descend on the Bayou City, home viewers will be in complete control of where their eyes go for the first time in NCAA Tournament history. For the first time ever, every game in the tournament will be televised in its entirety nationally.
Forget those crazy, frantic switches between games on CBS — and presumably the near constant complaints about how those switches missed crucial moments in the action. Now, it will be up to the home viewer to play TV director and toggle between the host of channels broadcasting games with his or her own remote.
This will be a completely different NCAA Tournament experience. Complete with new prime time games on the Sunday night of the first weekend, games starting during times they never did before (there will be no more breaks between the afternoon and night games on the Thursday and Friday of the tournament's first week for example), staggered start times and essentially a new wall of college basketball from 11 a.m. till after 11 p.m. CST on the tournament's busiest days.
The completely revamped TV plan was announced today. It's a result of the 14-year, $10.8 billion deal with CBS and Turner Sports that starts this year. In the past, NCAA Tournament games were only shown on CBS. Now, they'll be on CBS, TBS, TNT and truTV (formerly known as Court TV). All 67 games of this year's tournament will be shown from tipoff to final buzzer on one of those four channels, essentially ending the days of regional coverage.
Tip times that were compressed together in the past will be spread out so that it's possible to watch more of more games. Announcers will shift between the four networks with little regard for conventional affiliation (you'll see CBS' signature play-by-play voice, Houston's own Jim Nantz, calling the new "First Four" games on truTV with Clark Kellogg and Steve Kerr that now kickoff the expanded 68-team Big Dance on Tuesday, March 15 for example).
All three of the Final Four games will still be on CBS this year, but starting in 2016 (when the Final Four comes back to Houston), Final Four games will be shown on TBS.
It's more and more a cable TV world (college football's national championship game was shown on ESPN rather than ABC for the first time this year) and college basketball is bouncing that way.