SBD/March 16, 2011/Media

McManus, Levy Discuss How March Madness Deal Came To Fruition

McManus says Turner was his first call
when seeking March Madness partner
Basketball fans this week will get to view March Madness “in an unaccustomed manner,” as for the first time in the tournament's 73-year history, every game "will have its own national window, instead of being presented in CBS's wraparound format," according to a cover story by Mike Reynolds of MULTICHANNEL NEWS. The NCAA last year signed a 14-year, $10.8B rights deal with Turner Sports and CBS. The “architects of the deal,” CBS Sports Chair Sean McManus and Turner President of Sales, Distribution & Sports David Levy discussed the their “unique partnership.” Below are excerpts from the Q&A.

Q: Sean, I guess you were talking to ESPN about taking the last three years of the (old) NCAA Tournament deal, and you gave David a call. Take us through your thinking, back in the fourth quarter of 2009.
McManus: It became pretty evident early on in the process, when the NCAA informed us they were going to start having television discussions, that if we were going to be competitive we needed a partner to bid with us. The first call that I made was to David. … We did a thorough analysis on our own, and then with Turner, on the value of the tournament and came up with a figure that was competitive enough for us to get the television rights to the tournament with Turner.

Q: David, you said before this is a landmark deal for the company. What about for cable and the continued migration of big sports properties from broadcast?
Levy: We looked at this deal as four distribution platforms -- TBS, TNT, TruTV and CBS. And ultimately you're seeing programming, whether it's Conan O'Brien or the NCAA tournament, they're finding outlets to get to their fans. And this is a way for us to do that.

Q: You guys have already mentioned the cross-promotional aspect to both media companies. You have a Kings of Leon-driven marketing campaign. Is there enough push toward the first Tuesday night with TruTV?
Levy: We won't know until Tuesday night. … The reality is, I think that some people just won't catch it, but that's what happens over a 14-year deal. At the end, they will (MULTICHANNEL NEWS, 3/14 issue).
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