Turner gets digital rights to NCAA championships
Turner Sports and the NCAA announced a 14-year digital rights
deal Tuesday that includes management of NCAA.com, the primary web
site for all 88 NCAA tournaments and other services.
”We’re doing this for a couple of reasons, and we would never
do a stupid economic deal,” said Lenny Daniels, executive vice
president and chief operating officer of Turner Sports. ”The
long-term television world is going to change, and we think
everything is, eventually, going to be interconnected.”
Financial terms were not immediately disclosed.
If Daniels is right, Turner Sports’ second major coup with the
NCAA in five months may put the network in a stronger position to
land future contracts.
In April, Turner and CBS announced they were teaming up as
broadcast partners for the NCAA’s marquee event, the men’s
basketball tournament, winning a bidding war with a 14-year, $10.8
billion deal that means each game will be broadcast live for the
first time in the 73-year history of the event. The NCAA will get
an additional $740 million per year, on average, from that deal –
money it says will go back to individual schools and
But Turner Sports could be the big winner.
Beginning this season, Turner will carry games on three of its
cable channels (TBS, TNT and truTV), will begin alternating title
game broadcasts with CBS in 2016 and now holds digital rights to
all NCAA championships across all three divisions.
”I think people won’t understand until March how prominent
their (Turner’s) role is going to be in this agreement,” said Greg
Shaheen, the NCAA’s interim executive vice president of
championships and business strategies. ”The tournament is going to
have a different look and a different feel and how it is covered
will be a much better experience for the viewer. They (Turner) are
the ones who did a lot of the homework on this and they’re
Turner already has operational oversight of March Madness On
Demand, which drew 3 million viewers on the first Thursday of last
season’s NCAA tourney, as part of its television deal with CBS.
While the governing body’s primary web site, NCAA.org, will
continue to be run by the national office, Turner Sports wants to
add the other NCAA digital platforms to its long list of successful
web sites. Among those already being managed or operated by Turner
are NASCAR.com, PGATOUR.com and PGA.com and NBA.com and
Turner Sports is a division of Time Warner Inc.’s Turner
Broadcasting System Inc., based in Atlanta. It also oversees the
operation of SI.com.
What will change on the NCAA sites is not exactly clear yet.
Daniels said Turner Sports is still researching what Internet
surfers want to see. He’s already committed to adding more live
coverage and more highlights from championship events.
Shaheen hopes to see more coverage of ”The Road to the Final
Four,” though it is unlikely to include open coverage of the
currently closed-door selection process.
”We’re going to see if something is missing,” Daniels said.
”If you look across the whole college sports world, you’ll see it
(Internet coverage) is pretty fragmented. We want this to become
the place you go to for college sports.”
The free streaming, on-demand services could also get a
”We would expect March Madness on Demand to take the next step
forward,” Shaheen said, though he didn’t explain what that would
be. ”I’ll defer to the experts, but they know we want to explore
what provides the best possible experience for the viewer.”
Shaheen also acknowledged that the twin 14-year deals were no
Turner Sports started discussing the digital rights while it was
still working on the men’s basketball television deal, and the
negotiations continued through the summer.
Turner has agreed to cover the cost of the upgrades, and the
NCAA will still retain the right to make money from digital
”It really is a commitment by Turner to handle the startup and
the overall expense and over time, depending on the site’s
performance,” Shaheen said. ”The association has the opportunity
to share (in profits) as it goes forward.”