Just before Thursday night's Georgia Tech-Florida State game, three Turner Sports executives met with reporters to discuss Turner's new March Madness broadcast agreement with CBS.
The multi-platform cable network will be partnering with CBS to bring college basketball fans coverage of every game of this coming NCAA tournament. As part of the 14-year, $10.8 billion deal reached recently, the games will be broadcast on CBS, as well as TBS, TNT and TruTV (formerly CourtTV).
On the broadcast end, this collaboration will mean commentators and anchors will be mixed across networks, SVP and general manager of sports operations Matt Hong said.
So as an example, regular CBS commentator Jim Nantz will be on Turner channels covering games, while TNT staple, Charles Barkley, may be seen on CBS.
In addition to Nantz and Barkley, Clark Kellogg, Steve Kerr, Tracy Wolfson, Gus Johnson, Len Elmore and Craig Sager will be among the talent used. There will be two studios used for the tournament; one in Atlanta's Turner studios and another in New York.
It just made sense to split up the studios with an operation so large, Turner Sports COO Lenny Daniels said.
In Atlanta, Matt Winer will host studio coverage alongside Seth Davis and Steve Smith. In New York, Greg Gumbel or Ernie Johnson will share hosting duties with Davis, Barkley, Reggie Miller, Greg Anthony and Kenny Smith.
Because both networks regularly program basketball and have worked with one another coordinating coverage of golf tournaments, the partnership so far has been "seamless," Daniels said.
Until this season, CBS has been the home of March Madness, and regularly programs college basketball games throughout the season. The NBA calls the Turner channels home, with the all-star game and playoffs part of the TNT and TBS rotation.
Although the executives couldn't divulge too many secrets just yet, they said that the digital and online components of this year's tournament should easily rival and even surpass past March Madness components. There will be smart phone apps that have numerous functions, including video, statistics and score-based features.
On the web, viewers unable to watch the games on TV will be able to access live streams of the games off the NCAA.com website. Hong reiterated that Turner Sports reached a deal last year with the NCAA in which it helps run content on NCAA championships on the association's website.
On Thursday, Turner Sports also announced the staggered schedule of games, ensuring that there will be nonstop basketball action on each channel from noon to midnight during the early rounds. To help accomplish that, an additional 30 minutes was built into the overall schedule to help stagger the start times so that viewers can watch entire games without having their finishes preempted to show another one, or without having their starts missed as another game finishes.
The NCAA tournament begins March 15 with two "First Four" games. With the field expanding to 68 teams this year, four "First Four" games will precede the rest of the tournament, rewarding four teams with the chance of being at-large bids when the tournament begins.
The national championship is April 4 and will be held in Houston's Reliant Stadium.