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NEW YORK — The Final Four’s first two games are moving to cable next year.
The national semifinals will air on TBS in 2014 and 2015, with the title game remaining on CBS, the companies said today.
Under the 14-year deal that CBS and Turner Sports signed with the NCAA in 2010, CBS and TBS were scheduled to start alternating broadcasts of the entire Final Four starting in 2016, but Turner had the option to move that up to 2014.
Network executives decided in recent months that the best approach for both companies was to split the coverage for the next two years before beginning to take turns. TBS will televise the entire Final Four in 2016 and CBS in 2017.
“It was a nice opportunity to have a transition,” Turner Sports chief David Levy said during a conference call.
The two companies recently completed the third year of their contract, which televised every game in the tournament for the first time using CBS and three Turner channels — TBS, TNT and truTV. The new model has drawn strong ratings and proved viewers are comfortable finding the games on cable.
That success made Turner eager to get in on the Final Four early. Sports fans have become increasingly accustomed to major events on cable, include college football’s title game.
Basketball’s NCAA final will stay on a traditional broadcast network for two more years before making its cable debut. Meanwhile, TBS will add more big games: The channel will also begin airing two of the four regional finals starting next season. They had all been on CBS.
“We both win in this scenario,” CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus said.
The original financial terms of the deal won’t change under the new arrangement, McManus said.
Network executives have yet to decide which announcers will call the Final Four games next season. Steve Kerr of Turner had joined Jim Nantz and Clark Kellogg of CBS in the booth for the semifinals and final in the first three years of the partnership.