SBD/January 21, 2011/Media

CBS' Sean McManus Discusses NCAA Tourney Talent, Coverage Plans

It took 10 minutes for CBS News and Sports President Sean McManus and Turner President of Sales, Distribution & Sports David Levy to come up with the announcing and studio assignments for the two companies’ upcoming NCAA men’s basketball tournament production. The duo paired two CBS announcers (Jim Nantz and Clark Kellogg) with a Turner announcer (Steve Kerr) for the Final Four. They also plan to utilize two studios: one from CBS in N.Y. and one from Turner in Atlanta. Staff Writer John Ourand spoke with McManus Friday morning about how they arrived at these decisions.

Q: How did you come up with the talent assignments?
McManus: David and I sat down a few months ago. We started with the existing CBS team. We looked at the talent that Turner has doing their basketball package. We started filling in the boxes, and it was a very, very simple process. It initially took about 10 minutes. The number of eligible Turner announcers fit perfectly into the grid. If you look at the combination of the two teams, it’s as strong a broadcast team as on any sporting event.

Q: Why did you decide to use two studios?
McManus: The studio in New York is going to be the main hub for the telecasts on Turner and CBS Sports. Turner is going to be doing a lot of other studio programming and needs a separate entity down in Atlanta for pregames, postgames and a lot of Internet stuff. During those first two rounds, we’ve got 16 games on Thursday and 16 games on Friday. There’s more than enough work to do on those games at the New York studio, so one in Atlanta is necessary.

Q: Do you have concerns about using NBA analysts on the college game?
McManus: I really don’t because they are first and foremost basketball fans. We were all down in Atlanta on Wednesday night for a combined CBS-Turner dinner. I was talking to Charles Barkley, and my impression was that Charles was as big a college basketball fan as he was an NBA fan. They will obviously study hard. They are professionals. They will watch a lot of college basketball during the season. I think they will be very ready to do the games when they start in March.

Q: Turner doesn’t have college basketball. Will you give some of their analysts reps during your regular season games?
McManus: That’s something we’ve talked to David and his team about. If we can work that out in the schedule, we’d love to do that. These are professional broadcasters who are college basketball fans who follow the game. I think we’ll be absolutely fine.

Q: How have the two companies been working together?
McManus: There were a lot of skeptics out there about taking two disparate companies who have different cultures and different approaches sometimes and putting them together. If you talk to anyone in the advertising marketplace about the advertising sales, the fact is that it really is one team out there, a combined CBS and Turner sales team. We’ve divvied up the sales. There’s been a noticeable lack of pride or ego. The goal is really to serve the advertisers and to generate the most revenue.

Q: What about production?
McManus: When you take two different production teams -- both of whom have their own philosophies -- and put them together, there’s a possibility for a lot of tension and a lot of argument. There’s been almost none. We’ve agreed on philosophy. We’ve agreed on equipment. We’ve agreed on manpower and talent. It’s been remarkable for the lack of friction and the cooperation.

Q: What changes will the home viewer notice?
McManus: This is going to be a very different viewing experience. We have to pound this home between now and that First Four broadcast on Tuesday. This is not going to be the way CBS used to present it. It’s going to be up to CBS and Turner to educate the viewer and explain to them that they actually will be playing the role of producer now. If you want to watch the Syracuse game on TNT, you can watch the Syracuse game. We’re going to tell you if there’s a barn burner on CBS or a barn burner on truTV. But you have to find that game and you get to play producer yourself.
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