I need to ask Ted Turner for a job, because it’s obvious he had truckloads of money he’s eager to throw around. Today, in a move almost as surprising as TBS snagging Conan O’Brien last week, Turner networks and CBS agreed on a 14-year, $10.8 billion (yes, with a b) deal to broadcast the NCAA basketball tournament. CBS has had a stranglehold on the tourney since 1982, but now will share broadcasting duties with TBS, TNT and TruTV (the old Court TV; I guess that’ll show games coached by John Calipari and Rick Pitino).
For the next five years, the networks will share the first three rounds before CBS takes over for the Elite Eight, Final Four and championship games. But starting in 2016, Turner will get to show those too, rotating with CBS every other year.
What’s this mean for fans? Sheer awesomeness. First, every game will be shown in its entirety on one of those four networks. That’s huge. HUGE. I’m sure the live look-ins will survive in some form, but for the first time ever, you’ll actually be able to pick your game and watch the whole thing. What a concept! Secondly, the NCAA will expand the tournament field to only 68 teams, not 96 as was expected. Four play-in games isn’t a very exciting concept (64 teams was perfect), but it’s a whole lot better than watering down the field with an entire extra round.
Smile sports fans, this is very good news.