The NCAA is with Coco

by April 22, 2010

By Lang Whitaker

The NCAA Tournament is with Coco.

Today the NCAA and CBS Sports announced a new 14-year agreement that will keep the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at least partially on CBS, where it has aired since 1982.

The big surprise is that CBS is teaming up with Turner Sports to air every game live in its entirety across a variety of networks, including CBS, TBS, TNT and truTV. CBS and Turner will split coverage of the regional semi-final games. 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 by CBS and Turner with the Final Four and the National Championship game alternating every year between the CBS Television Network and Turner’s TBS.

So one week after signing Conan O’Brien, Turner is adding the college basketball championships to their existing coverage of the NBA, MLB, Nascar and the PGA.

“This is a landmark deal for Turner Broadcasting and we’re extremely pleased to begin a long-term relationship with the NCAA and our partners at CBS and to have a commitment that extends well into the next decade,” said David Levy, president of sales, distribution and sports, Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. “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.”

It’s also mentioned in the press release that the tournament could be expanding to 68 teams instead of the 96 that was talked about the last few months. Although with all the college players going pro the last few weeks, they may want to consider contracting the thing.

ESPN had been rumored to be pursuing the NCAA Tournament. After losing out, the Worldwide Leader in Sports 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.”

(Full disclosure: I appear on NBA TV, which is also run by Turner.)