SBD/March 24, 2011/Media

Multi-Network Coverage, Talking Heads Making NCAA Tournament A TV Success

Presence of marquee programs such as Arizona has helped TV ratings
TV ratings for the NCAA men's basketball tournament are at levels "unseen since the mid-1990s" thanks to a "fine combination of Cinderellas, powerhouses, ingenuity and vaudevillians," according to David Barron of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. CBS, TBS, TNT and truTV entering the Sweet Sixteen are averaging a combined 5.5 rating for tournament coverage, up 15% from a 4.8 last year on CBS and marking the "best first-week average since 1994." Turner Senior VP/Strategy, Marketing & Programming Christina Miller: "We're in a good place with ratings. The excitement is about the consumption across all platforms and all networks and that the appetite for the Tournament is growing. That is in line with our belief that there was pent-up demand for the tournament that we are now able to serve." Barron notes with games "spread across four networks, there's almost as much time for pregame, between-game and postgame chatter as for the games themselves." Viewers "expected opinions and one-liners from" TNT's Charles Barkley, but CBS analyst Seth Davis, "who has been teamed in Turner's Atlanta studio with Matt Winer and...Steve Smith, has had some choice one-liners of his own." CBS Sports Chair Sean McManus: "The good thing about combining CBS with Turner talent is that we have seen a diverse mixture of opinions. Seth (Davis) has always been lively, and now he's getting a chance to exhibit that" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 3/24).

HELPING WITH HIS DAY JOB: ESPN.com's Dave Wilson noted studio analyst Kenny Smith has "heard all the concerns about his TNT NBA crew doing college games," but he "thinks the experience overall should help him with the NBA gig." Smith: "It's only going to help you for the NBA because you have a better association with these kids." Smith added of working in the CBS studio during the tournament, "I'm enjoying it. I think it's a lot of fun. It's work, though. It's really hard work because of the hours, not because of the games. We went 16 straight hours with only four-minute breaks. That's just physically tough." Smith noted he and Barkley are "already signed on" for future NCAA tournaments. Smith: "You're gonna see us for a while doing college basketball" (ESPN.com, 3/23).

LOVING THE MADNESS: CBS announcer Gus Johnson will work tonight's games from New Orleans, and he said of broadcasting the tournament, "I just think that it is the greatest job that one can have, especially for somebody like me who loves not only college ball, but basketball in general." In New Orleans, Nakia Hogan notes Johnson's style "has earned him the nickname of 'Screamin' Gus' by fans and critics," but he "makes no apologies." Johnson: "It's a very genuine thing, because I really like what these kids are doing out there on the floor. And once you watch them and you get to know them, you kind of feel a part of it. And you want to delight in their excellence" (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 3/24).

TIMING ISSUE: In Jacksonville, Jeff Elliott wrote fans have "come to expect great games in the tournament," but what they "shouldn't expect, however, is a game that ends shortly before midnight on Sunday." TBS, TNT and truTV on Sunday began their coverage after 6:00pm ET, which "meant, for example, that the Florida State-Notre Dame game didn't start until" 9:45pm. Elliott: "It's another example of the student half of student-athlete being trumped by the all-mighty TV dollar" (JACKSONVILLE.com, 3/23).

HOOP IT UP: The tournament was the subject of some corporate synergy last night, as the Top Ten list on CBS' "Late Show" was dedicated to the "Top Ten Signs You've Been Watching Too Much College Basketball" ("Late Show," CBS, 3/23).

10) "Answer the phone 'Hellohio State?'"
9) "Been having erotic dreams about Verne Lundquist."
8) "Named your kids Xavier, Duke and Notre Dame."
7) "You've started injecting nacho cheese intravenously."
6) "Begin each day by inflating your pants."
5) "Ask your girlfriend to marry you using a dry erase board."
4) "No number four – writer at Buffalo Wild Wings waiting for games to begin."
3) "Actually know what TruTV is – honestly, people, what the hell kind of a name is that?"
2) "You've spent thousands on plastic surgery to look like Jim Boeheim."
1) "Your wife refers to your fat ass as the 'Big South.'"
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