NCAA's Final Four Games Get Targeted Simulcast Treatment on Turner Networks
Turner Sports and CBS Sports are making tweaks in their expanded coverage of the 2014 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship tournament, which kicks off March 16 -- with the biggest addition coming in the form of tailored broadcasts during Final Four Weekend.
CBS' broadcast of the National Championship on Monday, April 7 from AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, will begin earlier than usual, with a 8:30-9 p.m. ET pre-game show and an earlier tip-off at 9:10 p.m. ET. Additionally, TBS will televise the Final Four matchups on Saturday, April 5 with a 6 p.m. ET start, The fact that the Turner-owned network will broadcast the semifinals is significant -- it marks the first time that has happened.
Extra coverage of Final Four weekend will air across other Turner-owned networks, TNT and truTV, with the launch of the "Teamcast," where telecasts are specifically tailored to the teams competing in the games and their fans. For instance, if a Final Four game pits Syracuse against Duke, TNT would broadcast the matchup from Syracuse's vantage point while truTV would feature Duke-centric commentary.
"We'll have three different games being produced simultaneously at the same time, but the opportunity from a business side where all the advertising will be the same from all three platforms," David Levy, president of Turner Broadcasting System, said on a call with reporters Tuesday. Though he wasn't specific, Levy hinted that the play-by-play callers and commentators would have "a local flavor," saying that the broadcasts will utilize different camera angles, tell distinct stories and feature other perspectives.
Sean McManus, chairman of CBS Sports, echoed his cohort's sentiments. "For an advertiser, there's no downside whatsoever; there's an upside -- even if it's incremental," he said. "Even if it's 10 percent more for each one of the Teamcasts, that's incremental value for the advertisers. I don't think anyone loses here." The only potential negative impact, McManus posited, is the possibility that the casual viewer stumbling across a TNT or truTV broadcast could mistake the Teamcasts for the primary games (which will be on TBS).
"The concept was borne out of the popularity and the incredible passion people have with their college basketball teams and schools and we wanted to provide some kind of alternate viewing -- trying to give people a different perspective, if you will," Levy said. "And constantly trying to push ourselves internally. What can we do differently for the fans and what's happening differently in the media landscape?"
He added: "As you know, with the Internet and social networking, there's a huge amount of information and conversations happening and we wanted to be a part of it in a unique way." While there will be additional cost involved with televising three versions of the same game (i.e. more production trucks, producers and directors), Levy believes it will pay off. "We believe if we're going to push ourselves and be innovative in this business, sometimes it comes with expense," he said, already aware that there may be "positive and negative reaction."
TBS also adds an extra hour of Final Four in-studio coverage with Road to the Final Four broadcasting Saturday, April 5 at 3 p.m. ET before a two-hour Final Four Show from 4-6 p.m. ET.
Elite Eight games will air on both CBS and TBS, with the former starting Sunday, March 30 at 2 p.m. ET and the latter airing Saturday, March 29 at 6 p.m. ET.
There will also be changes in front of and behind the camera. CBS' Clark Kellogg heads back to the studio "where he excels," McManus said, with Greg Anthony calling the primary games with Jim Nantz and Steve Kerr -- in addition to a new lead production team.