Is April 29th DDay for NCAA tourney expansion?
The 96-team NCAA tournament is almost here.
The decision on expansion and media rights will be announced April 29 by interim NCAA president Jim Isch, Sports Business Journal reported Monday. Sure, he could say nothing will change, but all signs point toward the NCAA opting out of the last three years of its 11-year, $6 billion deal with CBS and expand the tournament from 65 to 96 teams.
(How’d it get to this point? Try here.)
While some think the tournament could remain as is, it seems increasingly unlikely.
CBS says it didn’t turn a profit on this year’s tournament – despite a ratings boost – and would need to partner with a network that could help pay that rights fee. It’ll pair with Turner broadcasting, while ESPN is sure to make a serious run at airing the tournament.
The Journal reports CBS and Turner have the inside track. CBS has broadcast every tournament since the early ‘80s and the NCAA reportedly likes Turner’s work online. The company operates NBA.com and NASCAR.com and the NCAA would prefer to maintain its branding on the tournament. ESPN would presumably have its own branding over the tournament.
Still, I wouldn’t rule out ESPN. It’ll probably offer more money – no small consideration given that the NCAA derives roughly 98 percent of its annual revenue from the Big Dance – and would offer more viewing opportunities for the games because it could use ABC, ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU.
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