March Madness spreads to cable with Turner-CBS deal

kentucky-cornell-ncaa-320.jpgPortions of the NCAA men's basketball tournament -- including, several years down the road, the Final Four -- will air on cable after CBS and Turner Broadcasting struck a huge deal to share rights to March Madness.

Starting next year, the tournament is likely to expand to 68 teams (from its current 65), and all games will air live on CBS, TNT, TBS and TruTV. Sweet 16 games will be split between CBS and cable, while regional finals, the Final Four and the championship game will remain the exclusive property of CBS through 2015.

In 2016, however, CBS and Turner will split the regional final games, and the Eye network and TBS will alternate years airing the Final Four and the title game.

The two broadcasters paid a whopping $10.8 billion for the rights, which run through 2024. The Division I men's basketball committee has unanimously recommended the expansion to 68 teams to the D-I board of directors, which will vote on it next week. There had been talk of expanding the NCAA field to 96 teams, but the smaller expansion will likely please hoops purists who didn't want to see a full extra round added to the tournament.

As part of the deal, Turner will also develop its own version of the March Madness on Demand online player.

The biggest deal for fans is the fact that all early-round games will air live on television. March Madness on Demand has been a huge success for CBS and the NCAA, but being able to watch any game on a bigger screen will be awfully nice too.

What do you think of the announcement?

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Photo credit: Getty Images

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