The NCAA announced a new 14-year deal with CBS Sports and Turner Sports for TV, Internet and wireless broadcast rights for the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship beginning in 2011 and running through 2024 for more than $10.8 billion. Here are some details on the agreement:
- Beginning in 2011, all opening-round, first-round and second-round games will be shown live on CBS, TBS, TNT and truTV. CBS and Turner will split coverage of the regional semifinal games.
- CBS will air the regional finals and the Final Four through 2015. Beginning in 2016, coverage of the regional finals will be split by CBS and Turner with the Final Four and the National Championship game alternating every year between CBS and TBS.
- NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee unanimously passed a recommendation to the Division I Board of Directors to increase tournament field size to 68 teams beginning with the 2011 Championship. The recommendation will be reviewed by the Division I Board of Directors at its April 29 meeting.
So it seems we’ve been spared the monster 96-team tournament that had been discussed, at least for now. And we’ll get coverage of every game live, thanks to Turner’s three networks. (Though I admit it will be strange to see college hoops on truTV, which was Court TV not too long ago.) CBS will keep the later rounds, the Final Four and the championship through 2015, then it will alternate with TBS every other year beginning in 2016. This is a little like MLB’s deal with TBS and FOX for the League Championship Series, but even in that deal FOX carries the entire World Series. The Final Four and championship will be exclusively on TBS every other year, which might not sit well with people who are without a pay TV service. And it’s yet another example of major sports championships migrating away from free broadcast TV. How long before the NBA, MLB and NFL take their championships exclusively to cable?