Turner Preps for Final Four Close Up

Levy (pictured) expands on 'Teamcast' plans for National Semifinal games
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New York -- Turner is pulling out all the stops for its first-time broadcasting the NCAA's Final Four next month.

During Turner and CBS' annual March Madness media day on Tuesday morning, Turner Broadcasting President David Levy expanded on Turner's plans to "Teamcast" both National Semifinal games on Saturday, April 5. The national game telecast will air on TBS, while TNT and truTV will each air a separate telecast specifically geared towards one of the participating schools.

Levy said they will begin looking at announcers once the Sweet 16 field is set; he said they would look at local radio announcers as well as TV. Each telecast will have its own pregame and halftime show, which Levy noted could feature a celebrity who went to that school.

"The most important thing is we want to get that local flavor," said Levy, who mentioned that they've gotten a lot of support from NCAA schools. "It's almost like a 'homer' type situation on a national basis."

Last year, CBS and Turner officially exercised an option in their 2010 agreement to broadcast the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, which would allow TBS to air Final Four games two years earlier than planned. CBS will still air the National Championship game on Monday, April 7.

"This is the crescendo of what [CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus] and I talked about from the start," said Levy. "Not a broadcast vs. cable partnership, but an equal partnership."

Speaking to a group of reporters afterword, McManus said that the easy thing would've been to just simulcast the game across the Turner networks.

"Anytime you air a program on multiple channels, the rating just de facto is going to go up," said McManus. He and Levy both mentioned "innovation" as major reason for doing this and as reminded that they are still still providing a regular national broadcast for non-partisan viewers.

"It's an experiment and we're going to try things that haven't been tried before," McManus continued.

"If we don't continue to innovate then I think we're making a mistake," added Levy.

Turner's "Teamcast" is in similar vein to ESPN's "Megacast" of January's BCS National Championship, though Levy pointed out that ESPN's secondary channels for the game offered only ancillary programming, whereas they're offering three separate broadcasts.  

"It's going to be a lot different from what they did," said Levy. "If you're a Syracuse fan or a Duke fan, ultimately you're going to feel like you're watching that home-team kind of game."

March Madness Live, the digital TV Everywhere offering for the tournament, will also feature all three telecasts.

All ads will run in the same slots on all networks for that night, both Levy and McManus said.

Final Four Saturday is not the only place where viewers will see changes in this year's coverage.

Turner's Ernie Johnson will be the primary studio host instead of CBS' Greg Gumbel, who will still have a major role. Clark Kellogg, who has called the National Championship with Jim Nantz and Steve Kerr the past few years will move back to the studio, where he had previously been for years, while Greg Anthony will take his place behind the mic.

CBS will air a full 30-minute pregame show for the National Championship on April 7 at 8:30 p.m., which will allow the game to start at 9:10 p.m., instead of closer to 9:30 p.m., which it had in recent years.

The NCAA tournament begins next Tuesday with the "First Four" on truTV (also Wednesday), with coverage across CBS, TNT, TBS and truTV starting March 20 and continuing through the weekend. The game breakdown: CBS gets 22, TBS will have 20, truTV will have 14 and TNT gets 13.

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