Scott D. Pierce: Welcome to the new TV world of the NCAAs
Brigham Young University got a No. 3 seed, a winnable first-round game and a nice TV slot on CBS. Utah State got a No. 12 seed, a tough first-round game and slot on a channel called truTV.
But Cougar and Aggie fans who live anywhere in the country will be able to watch their teams play.
Welcome to the brave new world of the NCAA men's basketball tournament on TV.
In order to fend off a determined effort by ESPN to win the rights to the tournament, CBS has partnered with Turner in a 14-year, $10.8-billion deal with the NCAA. The new first round two games on Tuesday and two more on Wednesday went to truTV.
Beginning Thursday and continuing through Sunday, each game will be aired in its entirety on CBS (Channel 2 in Utah), TBS, TNT or truTV. And viewers will be "empowered" by the new arrangement.
"Once the viewer gets used to it, I think he's going to like it," said CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus. "He's got the control in his hands. He doesn't have to rely on some CBS executive to decide what game he's going to get switched to, he'll switch himself."
No longer will CBS jump from game to game, leaving blowouts to show viewers exciting finishes.
There will be no regional games at all every game will be national on one of the four channels.
CBS is available in virtually all of the 115.9 million TV-equipped homes in America. TBS and TNT are each available in 100 million; truTV in 92 million. Games can also be seen online for free at mmod.ncaa.com.
The big change this year is you'll have to use your remote. And you'll be encouraged to do so. Each network will have on-screen graphics showing us the scores of the other games and which channel they're on. And announcers "will be telling viewer to go from one network to another network," said David Levy, Turner's president of sales, distribution and sports.
It sounds crazy, but it makes perfect sense. CBS and Turner are partners in this, and their advertising rates are based on their cumulative audience across all four networks.
BYU will face Wofford on Thursday at 5:15 p.m. MDT on CBS/Ch. 2. That's a little early on the West Coast, but will go into prime time on the East Coast.
USU takes on Kansas State on Thursday at approximately 7:57 p.m. on truTV. Which is nice on the West Coast but means a midnight-ish ending on the East Coast. And it means Aggie fans will be looking for truTV in their cable/satellite lineups. (You can go to trutv.com/ncaa/index.html to check it out for yourself.)
"We wish we had the Utah State game," said Steve Carlston, KUTV-Ch. 2's vice president and general manager. "But we are excited that we have the BYU game, which will allow Jimmer-mania to continue locally."
If anyone's getting the short end of the stick, it's the local CBS affiliates. Including KUTV, which will be airing Gonzaga-St. John's while USU is playing Kansas State.
But Gonzaga vs. St. John's is still preferable to no game at all.
"It's much better than the alternative, which was to have the entire tournament on ESPN," McManus said.
"I don't like it at all," Carlston said. "But the price of doing business got so high that we had to sublease the games so we could retain the rights instead of giving everything in the world to ESPN."
Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. His column on sports on TV appears Wednesday. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Channel numbers in Salt Lake City
CBS • Comcast 2 SD/654 HD; DirecTV 2; Dish 2
TBS • Comcast 32 SD/674 HD; DirecTV 247; Dish 139
TNT • Comcast • 39 SD/667 HD; DirecTV 245; Dish 138
truTV • Comcast • 44 SD/736 HD; DirecTV 246; Dish 204.
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