Pierce: Final Four will feature home-town telecasts
TV • Would you tune in to McCann, Wrubel or Arky if Weber or BYU make miraculous runs?
Published: March 18, 2014 11:08AM
Updated: March 18, 2014 11:48PM
Scott D. Pierce

Would you like to hear Carl Arky and Dutch Belnap telecast an NCAA men’s basketball tournament semifinal featuring Weber State on a national cable network?

How about Dave McCann and Blaine Fowler doing the same for BYU? Or would Cougar fans rather hear the voices of Greg Wrubel and Mark Durrant on TNT or truTV?

It might be worth rooting for BYU just to see the TV and radio guys battle it out.

Clearly, none of this is going to happen. It would take more than a miracle for Weber State or BYU to make the Final Four — it would take a series of miracles.

But the four teams that make the semifinals there will get hometown telecasts.

The main feed — intended for most fans — will air on TBS. (It will be the Final Four’s first time on cable, part of the overall deal between CBS and Turner.)

TNT and truTV will carry concurrent telecasts that “focus on the specific teams themselves,” said Turner Sports president David Levy.

Let’s assume that the four No. 1 seeds make it to the Final Four. If you’re an Arizona fan, you can hear your announcers on truTV; if you’re a Wichita State fan, you can hear your announcers on TNT.

Florida and Virginia fans could do the same in the other semifinal.

“The concept was really born out of the … incredible passion that fans have for their college basketball teams,” Levy said. “We wanted to provide an alternate viewing.”

The rest of us will be watching TBS.

What, exactly, the “focused” games will look like is still a work in progress. Levy and his counterpart, CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus, sounded a bit unsure themselves in a conference call with reporters. They spoke repeatedly about “more storytelling” from the hometown crews, whether it came from radio or local TV crews.

They even mentioned the possibility that local newspaper reporters could be involved in the “teamcasts.”

It’s an experiment. And the assumption Turner and CBS seem to be making is that local sportscasters will not just know more about their teams, but that they will openly root for them on the air.

If that’s the case, and BYU comes up with a series of miraculous wins, Wrubel and Durrant would have an edge over McCann and Fowler.

According to McManus, “We’re constantly trying to figure out new ways to make the experience for the viewer better. That’s an example of something no one’s done before. There will be some people who will like it and maybe some people who won’t be crazy about it.”

It’s not really all about the fans, but, seriously, who gets hurt in this?

TBS, TNT and truTV will feature different camera angles, different announcers, different halftime shows — but exactly the same commercials. So if even if there’s a small bump in viewership, that’s good for the advertisers and good for Turner/CBS, which share revenue.

“The only potential loser is if there’s some guy flipping around and he happens on one of the teamcasts and he thinks that’s the game that Turner is actually carrying,” McManus said. “Because I can just see Twitter lighting up and saying, ‘We’ve known it all along. CBS and the Turner guys are obviously rooting for’ ” — insert semifinalist here.

Expect to see a crawl along the bottom of the screen alerting viewers that they can switch to TBS.

Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at spierce@sltrib.com; follow him on Twitter: @ScottDPierce.