|NCAA March Madness|
Logo used since the 2018 tournament
|Genre||College basketball telecasts|
|Opening theme||"CBS College Basketball Theme" (main theme, 2011–present)|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||8|
|Running time||120 minutes or until game ends|
|Original release||March 15, 2011 –|
NCAA March Madness is the branding used for coverage of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament that is jointly produced by CBS Sports, the sports division of the CBS television network, and Turner Sports, the national sports division of WarnerMedia in the United States. Through the agreement between CBS and WarnerMedia, which began with the 2011 tournament, games are televised on CBS, TNT, TBS and truTV. CBS Sports Network has re-aired games from all networks.
Initially, CBS continued to provide coverage during most rounds, with the three WarnerMedia channels covering much of the early rounds up to the Sweet Sixteen. Starting in 2016, the regional finals, Final Four and national championship game began to alternate between CBS and TBS. TBS holds the rights to the final two rounds in even numbered years, with CBS getting the games in odd numbered years.
This joint tournament coverage should be distinguished from CBS's regular-season coverage, which it produces independently through its sports division. None of WarnerMedia's outlets currently cover regular-season college basketball games. Games broadcast on all four networks use a variation of the longtime CBS College Basketball theme (which has been used since 1993) music composed by Bob Christianson.
Background and coverage breakdown
On April 22, 2010, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) reached a 14-year agreement, worth US$10.8 billion, with CBS and the Turner Broadcasting System to receive joint broadcast rights to the Division I men's college basketball tournament. This came after speculation that ESPN would try to obtain the rights to future tournament games. The NCAA took advantage of an opt-out clause in its 1999 deal with CBS (which ran through 2013, even though the NCAA had the option of ending the agreement after the 2010 championship) to announce its intention to sign a new contract with CBS and Turner Sports, a division of WarnerMedia (which, incidentally, jointly owns The CW with the CBS television network's corporate parent ViacomCBS). The new contract came amid serious consideration by the NCAA of expanding the tournament to 68 teams.
The agreement, which runs through 2032 (extended from 2024 in 2016), stipulates that all games are available nationally. All First Four games air on TruTV. During the first and second rounds, a featured game in each time "window" is broadcast terrestrially on CBS, while all other games are shown on TBS, TNT or TruTV. Sweet 16 (regional semifinal) and Elite 8 (regional finals) games are split among CBS and TBS. In 2014 and 2015, Turner channels had exclusive rights to the Final Four (with standard coverage airing on TBS), and CBS broadcast the championship game. Since 2016, rights to the Final Four and championship game alternate between Turner and CBS; the 2016 tournament marked the first time that the national championship game was not broadcast on over-the-air television.
The same number of "windows" are provided to CBS as before, although unlike with the previous schedule where all games in a window started within 10 minutes of each other, resulting in the possibility of multiple close games ending at once, the start times of games are staggered, with action lasting later in the night and fewer simultaneous games than in the previous format. As a result of the new deal, Mega March Madness, a pay-per-view out-of-market sports package covering games in the tournament, was discontinued.
March Madness On Demand (now called March Madness Live) remained unchanged, with Turner Interactive taking over management of both that service and NCAA.com at the start of 2011. The contract was expected to be signed after a review by the NCAA Board of Directors. In 2012, the service was changed; only games televised by CBS are available for free. All other games are available to authenticated subscribers to the channels on participating television providers. The 2018 tournament, with TBS televising the national semifinals and final, is the first in which those particular games are subject to authentication restrictions. In 2018, March Madness Live added a new "whiparound" stream during the early rounds known as Fast Break (similar in concept to NFL RedZone and ESPN Buzzer Beater), which features live look-ins, analysis, and highlights of simultaneous games.
The CBS-WarnerMedia coverage formally begins with The Selection Show—in which the teams participating in the tournament are announced, which follows CBS's coverage of the final game on Selection Sunday. During the tournament itself, truTV broadcasts pre-game coverage, Infiniti NCAA Tip-Off, while TBS and TruTV also air the post-game show Inside March Madness. CBS also produces coverage of the Reese's College All-Star Game (held on the afternoon of the Final Four at its venue), and the Division II championship game, which are both aired as part of the March Madness package.
In 2016, CBS extended the selection show to a two-hour format; however, the new special was criticized by viewers for being too padded, while the full bracket was leaked shortly into the broadcast. In 2017, the selection show was shortened to a 90-minute format. In 2018, the selection show returned to a two-hour format, but the special aired on TBS instead, marking the first time since 1982 that the official bracket unveiling has not aired on CBS. Again, criticism struck, as the show, which included, the revealing of the tournament field within the first 10 minutes, similar to the bracket leak in 2016, and a segment from sponsor Pizza Hut, forced the Selection Show in 2019 to be shortened to a one hour show. The Selection Show was originally planned to alternate between TBS and CBS, with TBS airing the Selection Show and the Final Four in even numbered years, with CBS following suit in odd numbered years. However, CBS was to air the show in 2020, citing the desire to reveal the bracket first, which ended up not airing due to the cancellation of the tournament.
On April 16, 2016, the contract was extended to 2032 in an $8.8 billion deal. The current broadcasting arrangements, including alternating broadcasts of the semi-finals and final, will remain in force.
WarnerMedia began the process of dissolving the Turner Broadcasting System in March 2019. The corporate reorganization will not outwardly affect coverage of NCAA March Madness, which remains on the same networks.
There was no coverage in 2020, due to the NCAA cancelling that year’s tournament due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. However, CBS replaced its scripted programming (mostly encore and some new episodes of MacGyver and Hawaii Five-0) in lieu of the tournament's cancellation.
Additionally, for 2014, truTV and TNT aired special "Teamcast" coverage of the Final Four alongside TBS's conventional coverage, which featured commentators and other guests representing the schools in each game. While the consortium planned to tap local radio announcers from each team for the teamcasts, the majority refused due to commitments in calling the games for their local radio networks. However, Turner Sports' senior vice president of production, Craig Barry, did expect such difficulties, and planned accordingly with the possibility of using talent from outlets associated with the team, general region, or their conference (such as regional networks). The Teamcast feeds returned for the 2015 tournament, now branded as Team Stream powered by Bleacher Report. For 2016, they were also used on the National Championship game.
As CBS prefers having a singular broadcast feed, the Team Stream feature will not be used during any year that CBS holds the rights for the Final Four.
Other college basketball coverage from Turner Sports
Prior to 2011, Turner Sports' best known association with college basketball perhaps occurred on December 11, 1982, when TBS (with the aid of more than 100 independent network affiliates and stations) broadcast a contest between Virginia and Georgetown (led by Ralph Sampson and Patrick Ewing respectively). The game in question (in which TBS paid approximately US$600,000 for the broadcasting rights) was called by Skip Caray and Abe Lemons.
While most of the coverage is simulcast from the main U.S. feeds, coverage of the Final Four and national championship game uses a separate world feed produced by the ESPN College Basketball staff; in 2013, the Final Four broadcasts on ESPN International were called by ESPN's lead commentators Dan Shulman and Dick Vitale (alternatively joined by Brad Nessler for the second semi-final game).
CBS and Turner pool their resources for the tournament. While CBS's Jim Nantz remains the lead voice for the tournament, CBS's analysts are joined by analysts from NBA TV and TNT. Turner also provides play-by-play man Brian Anderson, who calls baseball for TBS and formerly did the same with lead NBA voice Marv Albert until he ended his association with CBS. (TNT's #2, #4, and #5 NBA voices, Kevin Harlan, Ian Eagle, and Spero Dedes, are already employed by CBS and thus do not require special arrangement to appear.)
Coverage originates from the CBS Broadcast Center in New York City, and the Turner Sports studio in Atlanta, where many of the studio shows for the latter division's coverage of the National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball emanate from.
CBS's college basketball studio host Greg Gumbel and Inside the NBA host Ernie Johnson split hosting duties in the New York studio during the opening rounds, while Gumbel hosts full-time during the regionals. CBS's Adam Zucker hosts in the Atlanta studio during the First Four and Opening Rounds. Johnson hosts in Atlanta during the regional semifinals. Johnson's colleagues on Inside the NBA, Charles Barkley and Kenny “The Jet” Smith, join CBS analyst Clark Kellogg in the studio in New York City, while Zucker is joined by Los Angeles Sparks power forward Candace Parker, and CBS colleagues Brendan Haywood and Seth Davis in Atlanta. NBA on TNT Tuesday host Adam Lefkoe provides game updates from the first round through the Sweet 16.
During the first five years of the TV deal, all games used Turner Sports graphics, which reflect from Turner Sports’ NBA coverage. Games on CBS simply used the CBS logo on Turner's graphics package, including the Final Four and National Championship Game.
With CBS Sports unveiling a new graphics package at Super Bowl 50 in February 2016, the new CBS graphics were used for March Madness as well. Despite this being the first year that the Final Four and National Championship aired on TBS (as part of an every-other-year arrangement), the 2016 CBS graphics are now used for all games, including those on TBS, TNT and TruTV. However, the games use a slightly different version of the scoreboard that has the network logo in the middle, and in black, as opposed to the usual white logo on the left. For TBS/TNT/TruTV games, the network logo simply replaces the CBS eye logo.
This tournament version of the scoreboard is anchored to the edges of the screen with shadows, which light up in team colors after a made basket, an effect not seen on CBS's graphics anywhere else. NBA on TNT and Major League Baseball on TBS also used this graphic package.
In 2018, CBS and Turner modified their logo for March Madness, by changing it to the logo introduced by the NCAA in 2016, where the regular logo is on top, and the 4 networks on the bottom. For single-network games, the bottom part for the network logo is smaller. However, despite the logo change, the graphics that were introduced after CBS Sports’ major rebranding during the week of Super Bowl 50, remain unchanged.
As previously mentioned, all four networks use a variation of the CBS College Basketball Theme during the tournament, arranged by Trevor Rabin, who scores the other sporting playoffs broadcast by WarnerMedia. Although CBS uses this arrangement for the tournament, they still use the arrangement that has been in use since 2004 during its regular season coverage. Since 1987, CBS/Turner’s coverage of March Madness always concludes with "One Shining Moment", the current version performed by Luther Vandross.
During all intros and outros into commercial breaks in the 2014 coverage, Spanish coverage Galavision used Fiesta by Chilean Singer Denise Rosenthal, all broadcasters used Shot At The Night by The Killers as the theme/bumper music.
During select intros and into commercial breaks in the 2016 coverage, all broadcasters used "Turn Up" by The Heavy as the bumper music.
For 2018, CBS and Turner used Irish-Rock band U2’s song "American Soul", from U2’s new album Songs of Experience. They also used "Say Amen (Saturday Night)" by American rock band Panic! At The Disco, one of the two hit songs from their new album Pray for the Wicked, the other being "High Hopes", which CBS used months later as their hype song for their college football coverage.
2019 featured the return of The Black Keys to March Madness, using their comeback single Lo/Hi, off their comeback album Let's Rock, as their main song. CBS also used "Hey Look Ma, I Made It", the third single off Panic! at the Disco’s album Pray for the Wicked, for the Bracket Preview Show. That meant that all three singles have been used by either CBS or Turner for either college basketball or college football.
2020 was to feature a song on TUDN called "Contigo" by Mirela for March Madness. After 3 years of using alternative/rock artists, CBS and Turner were scheduled to use "Dance Again", by American pop singer Selena Gomez.
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- CBS, Turner Double Up on Resources for NCAA Tournament
- Most of TNT NBA Crew to Handle NCAA Tournament Coverage
- Official websites
- NCAA March Madness — Turner Sports Media
- CBS, Turner Reveal Blueprints for NCAA Tournament Coverage
- CBS, Turner choose NCAA tournament announcers
- Why heck is truTV covering the NCAA basketball tourney?
- New March Madness format for TV viewers
- Fans can now see every NCAA Tournament game from start to finish
- NCAA Tournament Tip Times For 1st & 2nd Round Plus Announcing Teams
- truTV lands First Four games
- Sports Media Watch: NCAA Tournament on Turner[permanent dead link]
- Some First Thoughts on the First Four on TruTV
- Talking NCAA Tourney Deal With CBS, Turner Sports Presidents