NCAA semis on TNT draws millions of viewers

NEW YORK (AP) The Final Four broadcasts on TNT on Saturday drew millions of viewers, even though the main coverage was on TBS.

Were the new ”TeamCasts” that popular? Or did some viewers never realize – or not care – that they weren’t watching the regular telecast?

Turner Sports executive Christina Miller suspects it’s all of the above. The networks are still sifting through the feedback to their experiment for the NCAA semifinals, when TNT and truTV aired team-specific broadcasts of each game.

For the early UConn-Florida matchup, nearly 32 percent of the viewers across the three channels watched the Gators’ ”TeamCast” on TNT. With the semis moving to cable for the first time after more than three decades on CBS, there was inevitably going to be some initial confusion over where to find the Final Four. Since TNT airs so many NBA playoff games, Miller figures it was natural for fans to point their remotes there.

Many eventually clicked over to TBS, but apparently some stuck with TNT, where the announcers, camera angles and replays focused on the perspective of Florida for the first game and Kentucky for the nightcap.

Plenty of tweets popped up from perplexed viewers venting that the commentators were biased – so much so that the always-blunt Charles Barkley scolded fans during halftime of the late game for not grasping the concept.

Miller said it seemed as though only a small percentage of the audience was flummoxed by the new format.

”We are definitely happy with the results and what we were able to achieve,” said Miller, a senior vice president for programming, marketing and business strategy.

No decisions have been made yet about whether the TeamCasts will return next season, or how they might change if they do come back. But Miller did talk about how what seems confusing in Year 1 becomes routine in future incarnations.

UConn’s 63-53 victory over Florida was watched by 11.7 million viewers, down 19 percent from Louisville-Wichita State in the early game on CBS last year. Of that, according to Nielsen, 7.1 million were on TBS, 3.7 million on TNT and 900,000 on truTV, which aired the UConn TeamCast.

Kentucky’s 74-73 win over Wisconsin averaged 16.3 million viewers, down 5 percent from Michigan-Syracuse in 2013. There were 10.4 million on TBS, 4.3 million on TNT and 1.6 million on truTV, home of the Badgers-centric coverage.

TBS is in about 14 percent fewer homes than CBS.

Turner and CBS are in the fourth season of a 14-year, $10.8 billion deal to jointly broadcast the tournament, and so far viewers have seamlessly adjusted to having every game aired live across four networks, with new wrinkles added along the way.

”We have complicated things every year,” Miller said with a laugh.

And to the networks, ”complicated” is good because is means innovation.