CBS and Turner Sports have locked in the rights to March Madness for another eight years, inking an extension with the NCAA that will keep the collegiate basketball tournament in the fold through 2032.
Per the terms of the new eight-year, $8.8 billion contract, CBS and Turner will continue to share the rights to carry the 67-game Men's Division I Basketball Championship, which is the most lucrative postseason sports franchise after only the NFL Playoffs and Super Bowl. According to Kantar Media estimates, March Madness has generated some $6.5 billion in ad sales revenue since CBS and Turner joined forces back in 2011.
The extension will preserve the alternating schedule established this year, wherein TBS airs the Final Four and National Championship Game in even-numbered years, while CBS gets the semifinals and title tilt during the odd years. The contract includes language that allows both media companies to carry March Madness games across any platform within their respective portfolios, including those that inevitably will be developed over the course of the next 16 years.
In addition to the broadcast elements covered by the extension, both media partners will continue to manage the NCAA's corporate marketing program. Turner will maintain its oversight of the March Madness Live app and streaming site as well as NCAA.com.
CBS and Turner's original college hoops deal was valued at $10.8 billion and was set to expire after the 2024 champs were crowned.
"Our partnership with CBS and the NCAA has exceeded all of our expectations, and this new long-term agreement continues to align Turner with one of the premier sports properties that generates unrivaled fan engagement for more than three weeks every year," Turner President David Levy said in a statement announcing the deal. CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus echoed the sentiment, before adding that the broadcaster would continue to look to "maximize the value and exposure of this great event" across all CBS assets.
Prior to teaming up with Turner, CBS had held the exclusive rights to the tourney since 1982. Over the course of the 13-year span in which the bare-knuckles physicality of the Big East Conference gave way to Duke's improbable early-'90s run, CBS champiosnhip broadcasts topped the 20.0 household rating mark no fewer than 10 times.
TBS this season aired cable's first-ever National Championship Game, with fan-centric simulcasts for North Carolina and Villanova boosters set up on TNT and truTV, respectively. All told, 'Nova's electrifying last-second upset of the Heels delivered 17.8 million viewers and a 10.6 household rating, and while that was down a whopping 34% from the 16.0 rating served up by last year's Duke-Wisconsin game on CBS, that ACC-Big Ten showdown also happened to be the highest-rated final since UConn-Duke scared up a 17.2 rating back in 1999.
Despite the drop-off in deliveries, the Wildcats stunner managed to beat out a good deal of high-end sports broadcasts. That 10.6 household rating one-upped ESPN's presentation of the Orange Bowl (9.1) and Cotton Bowl (9.6), and edged Game 5 of the World Series on Fox (10.0).
That this year's championship game was unlikely to live up to the 2015 broadcast was as much a function of distribution incongruities as those tough year-over-year comps. Whereas CBS' linear TV network reaches some 116.4 million households, TBS' footprint is a bit narrower; per Nielsen estimates, the cable channel is available in 96.5 million homes, or nearly 20 million fewer than its network partner. Ratings guarantees were calibrated with all this in mind.
In any event, the final ratings were immaterial, as nearly all of the Championship Game ad buys were part of multi-game packages snapped up by clients who have multi-year deals in place with CBS and Turner. Media buyers confirmed that the networks were not on the hook for any makegoods.
Among the top sponsors in the April 5 title game were NCAA Corporate Champions (as the networks call them) AT&T, Capital One and Coca-Cola plus Corporate Partners Buick, Buffalo Wild Wings, Infiniti, Nationwide and Amazon Echo. Among the most visible unaffiliated backers were Burger King, which snapped up 13 spots in the final, Verizon (11) and State Farm (10).