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CBS and Turner Sports officials yesterday said that the "most radical broadcast changes in years to college basketball's March Madness might first bewilder viewers but should ultimately empower them," according to Jon Weisman of DAILY VARIETY. Longtime NCAA men's basketball tournament host CBS "realized that it was in danger of losing rights to the games to ESPN," so the network partnered with TBS, TNT and truTV starting this year. CBS Sports Chair Sean McManus: "We realized we couldn't bid for this just as an over-the-air broadcaster. We needed a partner from a (number of) standpoints. We understand the passion ESPN has and had for this event, and I think we were correct in that they were going to be very, very aggressive in trying to take over the rights." Weisman writes the "best news for viewers -- at least those who have access to the Turner nets -- is that for the first time, every game will be available on TV from start to finish." CBS and Turner "pledge to make this concept clear to auds, through onscreen graphics as well as from the game announcers." Turner President of Sales, Distribution & Sports David Levy said that "if there's a 20-point blowout on one network but a tossup on another, viewers will actively be alerted that they might want to change the channel." However, Weisman notes CBS affiliates "might not be waving pompoms over the new setup." Because logistics "will partly determine which games are broadcast on which networks," it is "possible that a CBS affiliate could be selling local advertising spots for one game while its hometown team is competing on a cabler." McManus: "The only answer I can really give (the affiliates) is it's much better than the alternative, which is to have the entire tournament on ESPN" (DAILY VARIETY, 3/9).
CHECK YOUR LOCAL LISTINGS: In Salt Lake City, Scott Pierce notes there will be "some negotiation" between CBS and Turner "about which channel gets which games." But "most of that will be decided by a team's seeding and bracket placement." CBS announcer Jim Nantz: "You really don't know how you're going to network the games until the brackets come out." Nantz added, "It's a new world out there because of this partnership (with Turner). Every game's going to be national. So it's a different equation than it was in years past" (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 3/9). McManus said that the networks will "cut in for some buzzer beaters, but they won't all be live so as not to sacrifice the national feed." Much of the "look-ins at games going on elsewhere will happen at halftime, and scores at the top of the screen will keep viewers updated with the games on the three other nets" (BROADCASTINGCABLE.com, 3/9). Meanwhile, in Milwaukee, Bob Wolfley noted truTV is "not available in HD in many markets." Levy said, "I would like to see all of truTV be in high def, and we are working diligently as we speak today with our cable operators, telco companies and our satellite distributors, trying to figure out ways to make sure our consumers can get high def games when they want them where they want them. ... They are all available in HD. The question is whether the cable operator or distributor wants to carry it" (JSONLINE.com, 3/8).
HOLDING COURT: TNT NBA studio analyst Charles Barkley, who will work the NCAA tournament for the first time this year, yesterday "promised to cover more than just brackets and buzzer-beaters." Barkley: "I'm going to talk about the games, but when I met with the NCAA, I said, 'At some point, we are going to have to talk about graduation rates on these damn games.' ... We just gave these damn people $11 billion. They're not paying the players. I'm not going to go on a rant about where the money goes, but they have an obligation to graduate these players" (NEWSDAY, 3/9). NCAA Senior VP/Basketball & Business Strategies Greg Shaheen said Barkley's comments are "representative of the many issues in the environment of basketball we're all trying to address." Shaheen: "It's a great opportunity for him to comment on those topics." The AP's Rachel Cohen noted Barkley is "still figuring out how and when to best get his message out on the air." He "doesn't want to be a 'downer' and intends to embrace the happier aspects of his new job." Barkley: "I've got to wait for the appropriate time. I can't start out March Madness on Thursday saying, 'These graduation rates suck.' That wouldn't be appropriate." When asked if it would be "appropriate to call out individual schools for low graduation rates," Barkley said, "I don't ever want to embarrass anybody, but some of these people deserve to be embarrassed. That's a good question. I don't know the answer to it yet" (AP, 3/8).
Time Warner Cable is "disputing the assertion by The Mtn. network and Channel 4 San Diego" that tomorrow's Utah-San Diego State game in the quarterfinals of the Mountain West Conference men's basketball tournament "cannot be aired in homes served by the cable operator" in San Diego, according to Jay Posner of the SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE. The game "will air on The Mtn. and Channel 4 only in Cox Cable homes," and Channel 4 Station Manager & Programming Host Dennis Morgigno said that TWC homes "will receive other programming during those hours." However, the New Mexico-Colorado State and Air Force-UNLV games "also will be shown on CBS College Sports, which is available in Time Warner homes." The Mtn. Senior Manager of Communications & Marketing Hayne Ellis said that it was "a 'mistake' that tournament games exclusive to The Mtn. were shown in past years on Time Warner." Ellis: "Time Warner subscribers were never to have access to San Diego 4 simulcasts of Mtn. games because Time Warner isn't a network distributor. What's happening now is not a change of policy. What happened in the past was a miscommunication at the time." Posner notes "top SDSU officials, including university president Stephen Weber and Athletic Director Jim Sterk, met last week with a Time Warner regional vice president and executives from The Mtn. and CBS College Sports to seek a resolution on the issue." Sterk: "We encouraged them to make a move and (carry The Mtn.) because there's increasing demand and our teams are doing well" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 3/9).
LOOK TO THE STARS: In K.C., Matt Campbell reported the reason some viewers missed the end of CBS' telecast of Saturday's Kansas-Missouri game was likely something called the "equinox conjunction," which "happens when the sun, a satellite and a receiver on Earth line up just right." The experience is "so intense the receiver can't cope," and it "can last for five to 15 minutes before the alignment is broken." It is called the equinox conjunction because it "only affects satellites in orbit above the equator, and it occurs as the Earth approaches the equinox." That "means a couple of weeks in early March, when it can happen daily" (K.C. STAR, 3/8).
Rasulo says ESPN could
weather the loss of NFL
In N.Y., Keith Kelly reports TMZ's plans for a sports-dedicated website have "fizzled." TMZ Founder Harvey Levin had "started hiring sports writers and editors" for the prospective site. Levin also has ended "plans to launch TMZDC covering Washington DC" (N.Y. POST, 3/9).
BULLISH ON THE FUTURE: Comcast SportsNet Chicago averaged a 7.21 local rating and 253,000 HHs in the Chicago market for its telecast of Monday's Hornets-Bulls game, the net's highest Bulls rating ever (CSN). In Chicago, Ed Sherman noted WLS-ABC earned an 11.5 local rating and 410,000 HHs in the market for Sunday's Bulls-Heat game. Sherman: "The ratings for the Bulls games are starting to drift into the numbers last seen when Michael Jordan was doing his thing in the United Center" (CHICAGOBUSINESS.com, 3/8).
TECHNOLOGICAL UPGRADE: In DC, Dan Steinberg notes Capitals LW Alex Ovechkin "took more than two years off" from Twitter after starting an account "at the NHL's urging during the 2009 All-Star Game." But last week he "came back" and has "tweeted 46 times in the seven days since." A "new phone from Verizon" was what "prompted this return to Twitter." IMG Managing Dir, Senior VP & Head of Global Consulting David Abrutyn, whose firm reps Ovechkin, said, "When his new phone was getting set up and activated, they put the Twitter app on there" (WASHINGTON POST, 3/9).
NOTES: In Philadelphia, Marc Narducci reported Bob Rigby "has been hired as part" of the MLS Union's broadcast team. Rigby "will be a sideline reporter and work on the pregame and postgame segments." JP Dellacamera "will return as play-by-play announcer," and former Revolution F Taylor Twellman "will be the analyst" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 3/6)....Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment and Rogers Communications have reached a deal that will see MLSE-owned digital networks Leafs TV and NBA TV Canada added to the Rogers On Demand Online lineup at no additional charge (MLSE).