Warner Media, CBS Sports Bosses Talk NCAA Hoops Tourney

This will be the 10th year of partnership between CBS Sports and Turner Sports to provide coverage of the 2020 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship. It is one of the most successful and consistent brand collaborations in the history of sports.

It was a great opportunity to be able to speak with Jeff Zucker Chairman of Warner Media News & Sports and Sean McManus, Chairman of CBS Sports via the CBS Sports and Turner Sports 2020 NCAA Tournament Media Conference Call, which is usually held at a hotel in Manhattan.

The NCAA Selection Show is this Sunday and with college basketball tournaments, concerts and events being shut down across the country in fear of spreading the Coronavirus, both men addressed how the threat might affect March Madness.  

Jeff Zucker:

As the NCAA has made clear, they are monitoring it on a daily basis and as of now, everything is proceeding as scheduled. We’re in close contact with the NCAA, but this is their decision to make and they are in contact with local governments to determine if there is any change in the tournament.

This tournament comes at a very important time in the country and I think that notwithstanding the incredibly serious nature of what’s going on with the virus, I think that the NCAA Tournament can hopefully be an outlet of emotional and psychological relief for much of the country, so we are all hopefully looking forward to that.” 

There’s no contemplation of scaling down staff or the event, but if there’s anyone that feels uncomfortable or doesn’t want to be a part of the coverage, we will accommodate that.


Sean McManus: 

We’re monitoring the coronavirus situation carefully but all plans intend to go forward. From a sales standpoint, we’ve been sold out since early February, which is amazing to be sold out that far in advance with all of the inventory we are selling. 

The Fans & Media Are Shut Out Of Arenas

Fans and media have been especially fearful of the possibility of March Madness games with no spectators.

Yeshiva University and Worcester Polytechnic Institute played in front of an empty crowd in a first-round game at the men’s Division III NCAA college basketball tournament at Johns Hopkins University’s Goldfarb Gymnasium on March 6.

The ACC tournament, Major League Baseball, the NBA, the NHL, and MLS have already banned media from locker rooms as a way to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. One governor has requested that no indoor sports be played with spectators in his state.

Ohio’s Governor Mike DeWine has recommended that no indoor sports, at any level, be played with spectators due to the spreading threat of COVID-19.

Sunday’s New York City Half Marathon was canceled and USC, UCLA, and Rutgers have prohibited fans from attending home games.

Sean McManus:

We talk to the NCAA all day and at all levels. Ultimately it is an NCAA decision with respect to the game and the possibility of having no fans. The production would remain the same, obviously, it would be a different atmosphere and we wouldn’t be focusing as we often do on the excitement of the fans but the basketball game is still going to be produced as it would be if there were fans in the stands.

Speaking of the actual broadcast, there will be some new elements. For the first time ever CBS, Turner Sports will be conducting coaches’ interviews on the court at the under 12 and under 8 commercial breaks.  

Also, Dwyane Wade will be joining the broadcast team during the Final Four and Championship game. 

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