CBS and Turner are negotiating to allow Turner to show the Final Four as soon as next year, as part of an option that is included in their NCAA Tournament deal. Plans have not been finalized, but several sources say that Turner is likely to have the Final Four in '14, which would place another premiere sports championship on cable. Under terms of the 14-year, $10.8B deal CBS and Turner signed in '10, Turner was set to begin televising the Final Four in '16. CBS and Turner released a statement to THE DAILY last night that said, "As part of the original 14-year deal, there was a provisional option for rotation of the Final Four and National Championship to begin in 2014. There is currently no time timetable for a decision." Sources said no money or other assets are changing hands as part of these negotiations. It is not known why the two networks are considering making the move (Ourand & Smith, Staff Writers).
BOOTH MOVES: USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand noted the nets yesterday announced several personnel changes to their NCAA men's basketball tournament coverage. Doug Gottlieb will serve as a "studio analyst as well as game analyst with play-by-play announcer Spero Dedes," while Rachel Nichols and Allie LaForce will join the coverage as sideline reporters. Marv Albert and Steve Kerr will call the First Four games March 19 on truTV; announcers for the First Four games March 20 have yet to be determined. The CBS/Turner on-air crew otherwise "will return intact" (USATODAY.com, 3/11). AWFUL ANNOUNCING’s Matt Yoder wrote entering the third year of the CBS-Turner deal “it's clear the experiment has been a victory for basketball fans everywhere.” Yoder: “Not only do you get every game available to you in its entirety, but the depth in broadcast quality for March Madness eclipses any other sports property with Turner's NBA personalities combining with CBS's impressive stable of announcers.” With the NBA announcers “improving last year in their analysis of the college game," fans should "expect the strongest tournament yet from the broadcast side” (AWFULANNOUNCING.com, 3/11).
Reggie Miller & Len Elmore
FREE SAMPLE: CABLEFAX DAILY confirmed a SportsBusiness Journal report from last month that CBS and Turner are “offering a free 4-hour preview option before requiring viewer registration” to watch live streaming of the tournament through March Madness Live. The networks last year “charged fans a one-time $3.99/person fee to stream games if they didn’t authenticate.” The four-hour period, which “can be divvied up across multiple games, is designed to give subs who aren’t familiar with the credential process the opportunity to catch a game or two without delay.” Turner Sports Senior VP & GM of Operations Matthew Hong said, “The industry is much further along with TV Everywhere. We’re moving almost fully to a TV Everywhere model.” The trial period is “a fallback for those who haven’t previously registered for TVE.” The authentication process will be “consistent with other products in the market” (CABLEFAX DAILY, 3/12).
The new Big East -- formerly dubbed the Catholic 7 -- next season will "join [the] Fox Sports 1 college roster" in a deal worth an estimated $500M over 12 years, according to Richard Sandomir of the N.Y. TIMES. Sources said that the contract "could spike" to $600M if the conference "grows to a dozen teams." Fox Sports execs last week "laid out many of the network's plans," but they did "not discuss a deal with the Catholic 7 ... which is expected to be announced in a week or so." Meanwhile, ESPN will be paying the old Big East -- speculatively called the America 12 -- about $20M annually to "carry a conference featuring Connecticut, Cincinnati, Temple and South Florida -- which are not leaving, for now -- in addition to Navy (in football only) and a group of new, mostly Southern universities." Fox "chased the basketball-only conference for several reasons." The net has Pac-12 and Big 12 inventory and "doesn't need football." Basketball "adds volume to Fox Sports 1" as it plans to make its debut Aug. 17, and the Catholic 7 brings Fox "history and rivalries" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/12).
The legal status of daily fantasy websites, which “have been protected under a federal law exempting fantasy sports" from online gambling restrictions, "seems increasingly vulnerable," according to Joshua Brustein of the N.Y. TIMES. The sites “allow users to wager thousands of dollars on the performance of professional athletes.” The distinction between fantasy sports and gambling now is “being challenged in federal court in Illinois and in New Jersey.” And there is “some indication that the patience of pro sports leagues is wearing thin with games that are significantly different from the season-long fantasy contests they have supported in the past.” MLBAM President & CEO Bob Bowman said, “It becomes akin to a flip of the coin, which is the definition of gambling.” Brustein notes many sites are “run by people with backgrounds in online poker or sports betting, activities that have run afoul of government regulators.” For the “top players, mostly young men, daily online fantasy sports are a full-time job in which they can win six figures annually.” Bowman said that although MLB “may be uncomfortable with the activity, it considers its legal options limited because the sites do not violate its trademarks.” The NHL has said that it “opposes daily fantasy sites that allow players to use real money.” The NBA and the NFL “declined to comment” (N.Y. TIMES, 3/12).
The Univ. of Hawaii said that while other Mountain West Conference schools who play nationally televised football games on specific days of the week will "earn six-figure bonuses" this year, it "will not." In Honolulu, Ferd Lewis wrote UH instead will "keep all" of its roughly $2.3M per year local rights fees from Oceanic Time Warner Cable. UH officials said the school will see its PPV and local rights money "protected" (HONOLULU STAR-ADVERTISER, 3/9).
SIGNING OFF: SI.com's Richard Deitsch reported longtime ESPN Radio host Chuck Wilson is "no longer" with the company, and his last day on the air was Sunday. Wilson's contract "was not renewed" after he worked the last three years "on a freelance basis." He said that ESPN Radio Senior Dir Scott Masteller "told him they were moving in another direction." Wilson spent "nearly 17 years at ESPN Radio during multiple stints." Deitsch: "Here's hoping someone picks him up" (SI.com, 3/10).
ANSWER THE BELL: The GLOBE & MAIL's Bruce Dowbigginreported English-language TSN Radio 690 Montreal "may disappear this year." As a result of Bell Media purchasing Astral Media, Bell "will now own four English language radio stations in Montreal," and the Canadian Radio-television & Telecommunications Commission does not allow one company to "own more than three" in a single market. Bell is "launching an online petition to be allowed to keep" the station, which serves as the flagship station for the Canadiens and carries the MLS Impact (GLOBE & MAIL, 3/9).