Navigating through all the hoop-la and madness during March

Print This Page

First Posted: 3/9/2015

{It’s that time of the year called March Madness.}

That’s why I put the first line in brackets. Get it?

But Madness may just not refer to basketball anymore. Madness may be in where and how you watch the games.

The NCAA tournament’s new 14-year, $10.8 billion TV deal with two media companies radically changes how a nation of basketball lovers or gamblers can see their games. Every game will be broadcasted nationally in its entirety, spread across four networks — old standby CBS, plus three Turner cable channels in TNT, TBS and truTV. CBS needed a partner to afford the games and Turner and his channels wanted in on the action.

The NCAA games start March 17 and run through April 6.

“That’s going to take some getting used to, but it’s a better programming option for the viewer at home and the basketball fan,” CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus said in an interview with The Associated Press. “More work on his or her part to find the game, but they get to decide what game they want to watch. In the past, I think we did a very good job of moving around, but it was our decision.”

So if a team leads by 30 points Thursday afternoon while another game is tied in the final seconds, CBS won’t budge. The viewer will have to. That’s what remote controls are for.

Use the final days leading up to the games as an opportunity to get yourself better acquainted with truTv. It’s the channel formerly known as Court TV, available in 80 percent of American homes with televisions, according to Nielsen. That’s a bit less than the 87 percent for the much-better-known TNT and TBS. And sports fans may already know the latter two as they air the NBA and Major League Baseball. TruTV is a newcomer to the sports world and even to viewers.

But that’s the reason behind the deal, an opportunity to get homes to reach out to truTV.

Since there are 13 seasons of the business deal, announcers initially will warn fans when they may want to switch to closer games on other channels. The scores — and networks — of the three other games will always sit at the top of the screen. March Madness on Demand, which will still stream games for free online, will allow fans to enter their zip code and provider to tell them exactly where truTV is.

There will be no regionalization this time around. This means that fans in western Pennsylvania won’t always be able to watch Pittsburgh games on CBS.

March Madness on Demand will remain a major option for everybody on Thursday and Friday afternoons when most people are at work.

You really have to work for your hoops this year. And the reason is cold hard cash. The deal means that companies can’t just buy ads on one channel. And ratings will count on all networks.

Get used to seeing sports on cable. The tournament is the latest mega competition to migrate to cable, though the Final Four will remain on CBS through 2015. After that, it will alternate between CBS and TBS.

The Sweet 16 will be split between CBS and TBS this year, with the regional finals on CBS.

The networks plan to do a lot of research this year into how fans watch games — on smartphones, on office computers, on iPads — so they can tailor coverage in the future.

You can bet there’s a whole lotta hoopla going on in March and, no doubt, there will be a whole lot of grumbling going on as bettors and sports fan try to find their games in the crucial moments of competition.

He shoots, he scores, he sees coverage!