CBS/Turner Bumping Up Tipoff Time Of NCAA Title Game, Extend Pregame Show
CBS and Turner Sports announced today at a March Madness media day in N.Y. that the two parties will shift the timing of the NCAA men's basketball championship game on April 7. An extended pregame show, "Championship Central," will begin at 8:30pm ET. The game's tipoff is scheduled for 9:10pm, about 20 minutes earlier than usual for what has been among the latest start times for any major U.S. sports event. "We think this is going to be a big plus for viewers," said CBS Sports Chair Sean McManus. The 14-year partnership between CBS and Turner Sports for the tournament is now in its fourth year, with other changes including the previously announced shift of the national semifinal games to TBS and the creation of new "Teamcast" team-specific telecasts of the semifinal games on TNT and truTV. But early returns on the deal in terms of ratings, ad sales and overall revenue have been so strong that TBS President David Levy joked to McManus that "we should be talking renewal. We only have 10 years left on this."
SUBTLE CHANGES TO "MML": "March Madness Live" will return with more subtle changes than last year's shift to a fully authenticated structure. The digital streaming of the tournament maintains that use of authentication, with the four-hour free preview seen last year reduced this year to three total hours. Support for the live streaming has been expanded to Windows Mobile in addition to the iOS and Android platforms. The popular Boss Button this year will return with three different user options: a page of fictional search engine results geared toward home users, a dummy PowerPoint presentation tailored for office users, and a false Evernote page designed for students. The Coke Zero social pulse feature of "MML," again supported by Ball State's Sports Link program, will for the first time integrate content from Instagram and Vine in addition to Twitter and Facebook. "That's going to be a much more sifted and curated experience as opposed to just massive raw feeds," said Turner Sports VP/Business Operations Mark Johnson. Streaming will incorporate online feeds of the Teamcast coverage of the national semifinals, bringing "MML" to 71 streams of 67 total tournament games.