Turner, CBS in 14-year NCAA pact

Pacts with network to split $10.8 bil deal

Turner is getting into the March Madness business, pacting with longtime rights holder CBS to split a new 14-year, $10.8 billion deal with the NCAA.

Under terms of the pact, CBS and Turner’s TNT, TBS and TruTV outlets will share rights to the Division I Men’s Basketball Championship starting next year and through 2024.

Eye’s previous $6.2 billion deal with the NCAA ran through 2013. But a clause in that pact gave the NCAA the opportunity to shop for a new deal. ESPN was interested, but ultimately the Eye –which would have seen its costs skyrocket over the next three years under the existing deal — was able to strike a partnership with Turner.

CBS/Turner deal had been in the works since last fall. The two sides have already collaborated in the past on the Olympics (in 1992 and 1994) and PGA coverage. Turner also splits sports rights with other broadcasters — such as Major League Baseball playoffs, which it shares with Fox.

Eye and Turner also recently kicked around the idea of mounting a joint Olympics bid for the 2014 and 2016 Games.

CBS Sports and News topper Sean McManus stressed that the new arrangement with Turner would keep the NCAA tourney economically viable for the Eye.

“In this agreement, we have created a new strategic partnership that not only makes this prestigious property an ongoing core asset in our stable of major television events, but a profitable one as well,” he said.

He later added: “The economics of this deal works out for both parties, or we wouldn’t have done this.”

It also means all March Madness games will be available on four national TV outlets — a first for the tourney.

Deal also comes as the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee unanimously passed a recommendation to the Division I Board of Directors to increase the tournament field size from 65 to 68 teams beginning with the 2011 Championship — ending speculation that the field would leap to 96 teams.

The NCAA’s Division I Board of Directors will review the proposal at its April 29 meeting.

New deal means opening- , first- and second-round games will be shown nationally on CBS, TBS, TNT and TruTV, the NCAA said. CBS and Turner will split coverage of the regional semi-final games; CBS will cover the regional finals, as well as the Final Four — including the National Championship Game — through 2015.

Beginning in 2016, coverage of the regional finals will be split by CBS and Turner, and the Final Four and the National Championship game will alternating every year between CBS and TBS. McManus and Levy defended the decision to allow the championship on cable — noting that Turner is available in 90% of TV homes — and that the arrangement was important for Turner, and therefore “necessary to get the deal done.”

CBS Sports has broadcast the NCAA basketball tournament since 1982. This year’s broadcast of the championship game earned its highest rating in five years.

The NCAA said its “March Madness on Demand” streaming video player will continue on both NCAA.com and CBSSports.com, and will now also appear on Time Warner digital properties.

“The player will be operated and developed by Turner and have enhanced digital rights allowing the NCAA to deliver content for multiple Turner and Time Warner platforms,” the NCAA said.

NCAA interim prexy Jim Isch said the new deal would provide member schools and conferences around $740 million annually.

David Levy, president of sales, distribution and sports for Turner Broadcasting, called the deal “landmark” for the cabler.

Move is just the latest feather in the cap for Turner, which just sealed a deal with another broadcast mainstay, talk show host Conan O’Brien, last week.

“We are well-positioned to monetize our investment in NCAA programming across three nationally distributed networks,” Levy said. ” With the combined linear and digital assets of these two large media companies we’ll be able to maximize the exposure of the Tournament, as well as provide incomparable access for viewers.”

One unified sales team will handle the coverage, and will sell time based on a cume basis.

“There will be more GRPs (gross ratings points), as every game will be televised nationally,” Levy said.

The parties involved declined to speculate on the fate of DirecTV’s “Mega March Madness” package in light of the new deal. Meanwhile, McManus said CBS’ College Sports network would no longer be given a game to telecast as it had in the past.

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • Bethenny FrankelVariety's Power of Women, Arrivals,

    Bethenny Frankel to Exit 'Real Housewives of New York' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Bethenny Frankel is stepping away from the “Real Housewives” franchise. Variety has learned exclusively that Frankel is poised to exit Bravo’s “The Real Housewives of New York” ahead of its upcoming twelfth season. Frankel first joined the acclaimed reality series back when it premiered back in 2008 before exiting the series in 2010 during the [...]

  • Dolly Parton

    BBC Commissions Dolly Parton Feature Documentary

    The BBC has commissioned a feature length documentary about country music legend Dolly Parton, it announced Wednesday. The documentary, tentatively titled “Dolly’s Country” will air on BBC Two this fall as part of a season of programs dedicated to country music. The broadcaster announced earlier in the day that it had acquired Ken Burns’ upcoming [...]

  • UCP to Develop Ann Shen’s 'Bad

    UCP to Develop Ann Shen’s 'Bad Girls Throughout History' as Anthology Series

    Universal Content Productions (UCP) is developing an anthology series based on Ann Shen’s book “Bad Girls Throughout History: 100 Remarkable Women Who Changed the World.” The project will be titled “Bad Girls,” with each episode featuring a different influential woman throughout history, including famous figures like Ada Lovelace, Rosa Parks, Mata Hari, and Ruth Bader [...]

  • Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro attends a

    Bolsonaro LGBTQI Outburst, Subsidy Freeze, Stirs Outrage

    Ramping up the drive into censorship in Brazil, its Minister of Citizenship, Omar Terra, has suspended a call for applications for governmental TV funding – until new criteria are established for its application. The country’s secretary for culture, Henrique Pires, who reports to Terra, has resigned in protest of the incentive freeze. The suspension, for [...]

  • Shanta Fripp Claudia Milne Jon Tower

    'CBS This Morning' Names New Director, Managing Editor and Senior Producer

    “CBS This Morning” has made three key staff appointments as the show’s new leadership team settles in. Shanta Fripp, an 18-year CBS News veteran, has been named director of the weekday broadcast. Claudia Milne has joined CBS News from ProPublica as managing editor while Jon Tower has been upped to senior broadcast producer. “I’m thrilled [...]

  • Sean Spicer DWTS

    Sean Spicer Will Make Six Figures for 'Dancing With the Stars'

    Sean Spicer could waltz away with a nice payday if he wins “Dancing With the Stars.” According to multiple sources, contestants on the ABC competition series make $125,000 for the show’s rehearsal period and their first two weeks on the air. If they make it to week three and beyond, they begin to earn additional [...]

  • Sean Spicer Dancing With the Stars

    Sean Spicer's 'Dancing With the Stars' Casting Is a Terrible, Cynical Ratings Grab (Column)

    ABC’s announcement that its newest “Dancing With the Stars” cast will feature Sean Spicer, former press secretary for Donald Trump and frequent punchline, got immediate heat. The show’s tweet sharing the news was immediately flooded with derision and calls for reconsideration given the fact that Spicer gained his modicum of fame from defending some of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content