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NCAA agrees to CBS, Turner deal on men's tournament

The NCAA on Thursday announced a new 14-year television, Internet and wireless rights agreement with CBS Sports and Turner Broadcasting System, Inc., to present the Division I Men’s Basketball Championship beginning in 2011 and continuing through 2024 for more than $10.8 billion.

As part of the agreement, all games will be shown live across four national networks beginning in 2011 – a first for the championship.

CBS Sports and Turner Broadcasting also have been licensed and will collaborate on the NCAA’s corporate marketing program.

Late Wednesday, the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee unanimously passed a recommendation to the Division I Board of Directors to increase the tournament field size to 68 teams beginning with the 2011 championship. The Division I Board of Directors will review the recommendation at its April 29 meeting.

The new agreement sustains the long-term financial stability of the Association. About 96 percent of all NCAA revenue, including money generated from this new agreement, is used to benefit student-athletes through either programs, services or direct distribution to member conferences and schools. The agreement also ensures student-athletes across all three NCAA divisions will continue to be supported through a broad range of championship opportunities, access to funds for personal and educational needs, and athletically related financial aid in Divisions I and II.

Beginning with the 2011 Division I Men’s Basketball Championship, opening- , first- and second-round games will be shown nationally on CBS, TBS, TNT and truTV. CBS and Turner will split coverage of the regional semifinal 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, CBS and Turner will split coverage of the regional finals with the Final Four and the national championship game alternating every year between CBS and TBS.

CBS Sports has broadcast the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship since 1982.

Under the new rights agreement, NCAA March Madness on Demand − the Emmy Award-winning video player that provides live streaming video of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship − will continue to be launched from NCAA.com and CBSSports.com. Turner also has secured the rights for any Time Warner digital property. The player will be operated and developed by Turner and have enhanced digital rights, allowing the NCAA to deliver content for multiple Turner and Time Warner platforms.

“This is an important day for intercollegiate athletics and the 400,000 student-athletes who compete in NCAA sports,” said NCAA Interim President Jim Isch. “This agreement will provide on average more than $740 million annually to our conferences and member schools to help student-athletes in 23 sports learn and compete.

“We’re excited this agreement continues our long-standing relationship with CBS, a partner company that has captured the unique spirit of the collegiate model of athletics, and brings a new partner in Turner Broadcasting to the championship and NCAA basketball.”

Sean McManus, president of CBS News and Sports said: “This agreement with our colleagues at Turner and the NCAA secures CBS’s standing as a year-round leader in sports television well into the next decade. In this agreement, we have created a new strategic partnership that not only makes this prestigious property an ongoing core asset in our stable of major television events but a profitable one as well. We look forward to working with our friends at Turner as together we combine our industry-leading media assets to maximize the value of this great NCAA championship.”

David Levy, president of sales, distribution and sports at Turner Broadcasting, also praised the new agreement.

“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,” he said. “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.

“We are well-positioned to monetize our investment in NCAA programming across three nationally distributed networks. With the combined linear and digital assets of these two large media companies we’ll be able to maximize the exposure of the tournament, as well as provide incomparable access for viewers.”

An NCAA Division I committee headed by Harvey Perlman, chancellor of the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, will study and recommend prospective revenue-distribution formulas to the Division I Board of Directors.

Currently, 96 percent of all NCAA revenue is returned to membership either in direct payments or in programs and services; 60 percent is distributed to directly to Division I members through a series of funds.

The committee will follow principles of the current formula that ensure access to funds by student-athletes for educational, personal and emergency needs; that favor a broad-based approach to sports sponsorship; that continue to encourage more grants-in-aid rather than less; and that promote enhanced academic support of student-athletes.

Additionally, the committee will examine the need to strike a balance between Division I Men’s Basketball Championship performance and academic achievement through either the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate or Graduation Success Rate metrics or both.

ESPN, the longstanding home for NCAA championships such as the Division I Women’s Basketball Championship, the College World Series, the Men’s Frozen Four and others, will continue to broadcast a full complement of events over the coming years.

“The economic challenges of the day are being felt on campuses across the country,” Isch said. “The amount of revenue from this agreement isn’t the focus of this moment; rather it is the long-term security it provides, as well as what is done with the money. We put our money where our mission is…supporting student-athletes so they can be successful in the classroom and in life.”


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