Where to find the most important games and what to ask Alexa
HERE IS THE one public service announcement for tournament television coverage that you will want to remember: The semifinals (April 1) and the title game (April 3) move back to CBS.
As part of the partnership between Turner and CBS, which runs through 2032, the Final Four coverage rotates every year. This is good news for both viewers—and media partners. Last year's epic title game between Villanova and North Carolina drew 17.8 million total viewers across TBS, TNT and truTV, down 37% from the 2016 final (28.3 million) featuring Duke and Wisconsin. As much as cable sports networks want to tell you there is no difference between cable and traditional network television, the viewership tells another story.
But beyond knowing where to watch the last three games, there are a few other items to bear in mind this year:
• NCAA March Madness Live will provide streaming coverage on 15 platforms, including, for the first time, Amazon Alexa devices and Xbox. Fans will be able to ask Alexa questions related to scores and results, as well as get play-by-play information and radio broadcasts. Apple TV users can access a newly formatted interactive bracket that is a gateway to live games, previews and highlights.
• With the switch back to CBS for the Final Four, there will be no team-centric alternative broadcasts like the ones seen on Turner networks last year. "We have a slightly different model, and exclusivity for our stations is important to us," says CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus. "Our goal is to aggregate the largest audience, so it's important to us for the semifinals and final game that we do that on CBS."
• Steve Lavin and Debbie Antonelli have been added as analysts, making Antonelli the first woman to call men's NCAA tournament games since Ann Meyers Drysdale in 1995. A star forward at N.C. State in the mid-1980s, Antonelli has worked as a broadcaster for 29 years.
• The four regional finals games will once again be split between TBS and CBS, but this year TBS will show its games on March 25 (Saturday) beginning at 6 p.m; CBS will air its doubleheader the next day starting at 2 p.m. Eastern.