April 22, 2010: The marketing juggernaut that is March Madness is about to become more elegant and ornate. The NCAA has signed a new $10.8 billion, 14-year TV, Internet and wireless rights agreement with CBS Sports and Turner Broadcasting System to cover the celebration known as the Division I men’s basketball tournament.
The deal, which runs from 2011 through 2024, is the next generation of an 11-year, $6 billion deal CBS signed with the NCAA in 1999 to carry the Division I men’s basketball tournament. CBS and the NCAA have been tournament partners since 1982.
Under terms of the deal, all games for the first time will be shown live across four networks: CBS, TBS, TNT and truTV, the latter three owned by Time Warner subsidiary Turner Broadcasting. To accommodate the increased coverage, the NCAA said its Division I Board of Directors is expected to approve at a meeting on April 29 the expansion of the field from 65 to 68 teams. The NCAA also left the door open for more expansion in the future.
“This is an important day for intercollegiate athletics and the 400,000 student-athletes who compete in NCAA sports,” NCAA interim president Jim Isch said in a statement. “This agreement will provide on average more than $740 million annually to our conferences and member schools to help student-athletes in 23 sports learn and compete.”
Beginning with the 2011 tournament, opening- , first- and second-round games will be aired live on CBS, TBS, TNT and truTV. CBS will provide coverage of 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 between CBS and Turner, with the Final Four and the national championship game alternating yearly between CBS and TBS.
The 2011 Final Four is scheduled for April 2-4 at Reliant Stadium in Houston. Upcoming sites are the Superdome (New Orleans) in 2012, the Georgia Dome (Atlanta) in 2013, Cowboys Stadium in 2014, Lucas Oil Stadium (Indianapolis, site of the 2010 Final Four) in 2015 and Reliant Stadium again in 2016.
Under the new rights agreement, NCAA March Madness on Demand, the video player that provides live streaming video of the NCAA Division I men’s basketball championship, will continue to be launched from NCAA.com and CBSSports.com. Turner has also secured the rights for any Time Warner digital property. 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."
According to the NCAA, the new deal "sustains the long-term financial stability of the Association. As with the current contract, approximately 96% of the revenue generated from this new agreement will be used to benefit student-athletes through either programs, services or direct distribution to member conferences and schools."
NCAA "corporate champions" include AT&T, Coca-Cola and the recently signed Capital One. "Corporate partners" are Enterprise, Hartford Insurance, Hershey's, LG Electronics, Lowe's, Kraft Foods' Planters, State Farm and the recently signed UPS.
This year’s broadcast of the championship game on CBS earned an average national household rating/share of 14.2/23, up 31% from a 10.8/18 last year, the highest rating in five years, per the NCAA and CBS Sports.
"The NCAA men’s basketball tournament has a rich tradition and is one of the most talked about sporting events every year, highlighted by the Final Four and the national championship game." — David Levy, TBS
“The NCAA men’s basketball tournament has a rich tradition and is one of the most talked about sporting events every year, highlighted by the Final Four and the national championship game," David Levy, president of sales, distribution and sports for Turner Broadcasting System, said in a statement. "We are well-positioned to monetize our investment in NCAA programming across three nationally distributed networks. 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."
ESPN, which was also vying for rights to the tournament, said in a statement, "We made an aggressive bid and believe our combination of TV distribution, digital capabilities, season-long coverage and year-round marketing would have served the interests of the NCAA and college fans very well. We remain committed to our unparalleled coverage of more than 1,200 men's and women's college basketball games each season."
The NCAA said that ESPN would continue to broadcast "a full complement of events over the coming years," such as the Division I women’s basketball championship, the College World Series and the hockey Frozen Four championship.
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