By Barry Janoff
April 12, 2016: Calling it "one of the most dominant sports properties out there," CBS and Turner Sports today extend their alliance with the NCAA for multi-platform rights to the the Div. I Men's Basketball Tournament through 2032.
The total rights fee for the extension was put at $8.8 billion.
The new pact extends a 14-year deal the CBS and Turner Sports signed in 2010 valued at $10.8 billion.
"In many ways, CBS is about big events — the Grammy Awards, Super Bowl, The Masters, the NCAA basketball championship,' Sean McManus, chairman for CBS Sports, said during a media conference call to unveil the extended alliance. "This deal has worked extremely well for us for the first six years; it has exceeded all of our expectations. When the opportunity presented itself to extend with the NCAA and Turner for another eight years, we were very enthusiastic about doing that."
"This is one of the most dominant sports properties out there," said David Levy, president for Turner Sports. "It resonates for two and a half, three weeks a year. To be able to have that, plus other rights, not just digital and social but event rights plus sponsorship and marketing, makes this a premier package."
Under terms of the new deal, Turner and CBS Sports would provide live coverage of all NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship games across any platform within their respective portfolios, including those to be created over the life of the agreement.
Turner and CBS Sports would also maintain the existing sales partnership surrounding the NCAA Corporate Champion and Partner program, which has grown from nine to 17 companies since the previous deal was announced in 2010.
The extension of our current agreement enables more than 1,100 NCAA member colleges and universities to "continue to support student-athletes on 19,000 teams across 24 sports,” said NCAA president Mark Emmert. “We have a diverse membership with varying resource levels, and this extension will assist our campuses as they provide pathways to opportunity in higher education and beyond for nearly a half a million young men and women each year.”
Speaking on the extension of the current deal for another eight years, Emmert said, "For the member universities and colleges in the NCAA, the NCAA as an association generates its revenue comes solely from the 90 national championships that we conduct. Of these championships, only one is a major revenue producer: the Men's Basketball Tournament. So for a majority of the colleges and universities in the Association, the distribution that comes out of this revenue stream is essential to their ability to be able to conduct their athletic departments and their programs.
"So for them to be able to have confidence that they have a revenue stream that extends out well into the future gives them the ability to plan and organize their behavior and organize their activities around that revenue stream. It was a very important part of what we were trying to accomplish," said Emmert.
NCAA corporate champion partners are AT&T, Capital One and Coca-Cola.
Official corporate partners include Allstate, Amazon Echo, Microsoft's Bing, Buffalo Wild Wings, GM's Buick, Enterprise, Infiniti, Loew's, LG, Nabisco, Northwest Mutual, Reese's, Unilever and UPS.
Since 2011, the CBS-Turner Sports alliance has seen all games televised across four networks: CBS, TBS, TNT and truTV. Earlier this month, the Final Four and championship games were shown exclusively for the first time on TBS, an alternating platform with CBS that now would continue through 2032.
Ratings have been strong, with Duke's 2015 title victory over Wisconsin, broadcast on CBS, averaging 28.3 million (with a peak of 33.4 million) viewers and pulling in the game's highest rating in 22 years.
But the championship game on April 4 between North Carolina and title winner Villanova, which aired on TBS (and concurrent "homer" broadcasts on TNT and truTV), was down 37% from that, averaging 17.8 million (peaking at 22.3 million)
"On the cable ratings, ratings declined not just for the championship game, but for the entire tournament," said Levy. "The was the sixth year of the CBS-Turner deal, and for the first five years not only did ratings climb every year on TV but also on social and digital.
"This year was sort of an anomaly. The story lines and the match-ups really played into the whole tournament. The point about broadcast and cable, in 2015 the Kentucky-Wisconsin semi-final game on TBS, was the highest-rated game in 19 years, on broadcast or cable. If there is the right storyline, the right match-up and a competitive game, you will get (good) ratings, whether it's broadcast or cable," said Levy.
On other platforms, March Madness Live and social outlets continued to show growth.
“Our expansive rights provide us with a tremendous opportunity to build and pursue new business extensions while developing an even deeper connection with our fans across existing platforms, as well as those to be created in the future," said Levy. "As we pursue all of these opportunities, Turner is uniquely positioned to monetize these broad rights across every aspect of our business.”
"The structure of the deal has worked very well for CBS and will work for us through 2032," said McManus. "It's a profitable deal for us, which obviously is an important component. The fact that we are secure in another big event, which has been part of CBS for 35 years, is a great continuation to our line-up of premier events."
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