NEW YORK – The NCAA tournament's new TV deal will allow for more staggered starts of games, so all those buzzer-beaters aren't happening at the same time.
The contract signed in April with CBS and Turner Sports meant all games would be televised live nationally for the first time. Because Turner's three cable channels don't have the same commitments to the nightly news and other regular programming as CBS, the tournament games will be more spread out starting this season.
That includes prime time games on TBS, TNT and truTV during the first Sunday, the networks announced Thursday.
Last season, when only CBS broadcast games, the first three contests on the opening Thursday afternoon started within 10 minutes of each other. Even for fans who had access to all the games through the free stream on the Internet or by buying the TV package, that often meant multiple matchups going down to the wire at the same time.
"That wasn't good enough," said Turner Sports senior vice president Christina Miller. "What was going to be good enough was if we stagger it and let people catch each game or at least capture the big moments at the end of everything."
Now those games will start at least 30 minutes apart.
The new way of watching March Madness was made possible when CBS and Turner signed a 14-year, $10.8 billion deal, with the NCAA deciding to expand from 65 only to 68 teams, not 96. The contract kept the regional finals and Final Four on CBS through 2015. The regional semifinals will be split between CBS and TBS this season.