SBD/Issue 155/Sports Media

David Levy Discusses Turner's Role In NCAA Deal, Including MMOD

Levy Says Turner Plans To Upgrade
March Madness On Demand

Turner Broadcasting System President of Sales, Distribution & Sports David Levy said that as his company assumes operation of March Madness on Demand from CBS Sports, the "plan is to upgrade it," according to Staci Kramer of PAID CONTENT. The CBS-Turner partnership for rights to the NCAA men's basketball tournament calls for MMOD to remain on CBSSports.com and NCAA.com, in addition to becoming available on Turner properties. Levy said, "We’re trying to figure out how we upgrade that product and make it better versus having it vanish. It’s not going to vanish.” He indicated that every game will be streamed live, and that the enhanced MMOD could "have a TV Everywhere component." Levy added, "We recognize, both CBS and ourselves, that particularly sports fans want that dimensional viewing, that experience across multiple platforms so March Madness on Demand is still going to be there. We’re now looking how to make it better and how to be a truly better experience for the viewer.” Kramer noted that is "one place Turner's digital expertise should come in handy." Levy: "We can take what works for the NBA, what works for NASCAR, what works for PGA, what hasn’t worked." Levy said that the partnership as a whole is a "landmark deal," bringing a "marquee sporting event that has no match to Turner." He noted that revenue is the "force driving all of this." Levy: "Whether the revenue comes from TV, from CBSSports.com, from TBS.com or the revenue comes from anywhere -- all of that revenue surrounding this tournament is going to be included in the partnership to be shared." Levy confirmed that revenue sharing between Turner and CBS is not equal, saying, "There are caps for CBS and that is part of the structure. We can monetize; there’s more upside for us than with CBS." Addressing tournament coverage on all platforms, Levy said, "If you have a television you can see all the games in full national coverage of each and every game across four networks. How it ends up going down and being distributed across different platforms, that’s a business model we’ll discuss down the road" (PAIDCONTENT.org, 4/23).

STICKING AROUND FOR MORE: SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL's Ourand & Smith note CBS' "identity is defined by its long-term relationships" with sports properties, including a partnership with the NCAA tournament dating back to the '80s, and so the network "didn't want to lose" rights to March Madness. CBS News and Sports President Sean McManus said, "That's when we started talking to Turner." The new pact keeps a "significant amount of games on CBS, while benefiting from Turner's dual revenue stream of advertising and cable subscriber fees." Sources indicated that Turner "will pay the bulk of the rights fee," and is expected to "charge cable and satellite operators much higher license fees when it begins carrying the Final Four in 2016." Ourand & Smith note the two networks also will "increase their ad inventory because all of the games will be televised nationally." McManus: "We are immediately turning around our financial situation. It immediately becomes a profitable event for CBS" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 4/26 issue).

EVERY SEASON TURN, TURN, TURN: In N.Y., Bob Raissman wrote TNT's Charles Barkley "must have a role" going forward in coverage of the NCAA tournament, "unless his contract prohibits." CBS and Turner execs are "going to have to brand this split package by bringing some 'new' voices into the mix," and Turner "already has a star in Barkley." CBS' coverage of the tournament "has been lacking in personality," and when it "comes to covering basketball, albeit of the NBA variety on TNT, Turner is far ahead of the competition." Barkley has "contributed mightily to the success," and his presence in the tournament coverage "would bring instant buzz and get Turner's brand of March Madness off to a flying start." Meanwhile, Raissman suggested that Turner may "make a big run at getting back in the NFL biz." At some point, "sooner than later, the NFL is going to expand its Thursday night" schedule to a "season-long package," and Turner -- once a "Sunday Night Football" broadcaster -- could get back into the fold (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 4/25).

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