In $8.8 Billion Deal, CBS and Turner Add 8 More Years of March Madness

Networks keep tournament through 2032

CBS has aired the NCAA Tournament since 1982, and today, along with Turner, it just ensured its partnership with the NCAA will reach beyond a fifth decade.

CBS and Turner have extended their rights deal that covers television and digital—including platforms that haven't even been created yet—for March Madness through 2032, adding eight years to the current pact, which was to expire in 2024. 

"There are very few premium sports properties that are available that produce this kind of value," said Turner Broadcasting president David Levy, during a conference call with reporters this afternoon. Added CBS sports chairman Sean McManus: "The structure of the deal has worked very well for CBS. It's a profitable deal for us."

The new $8.8 billion package will see the two companies paying an average of $1.1 billion each year, up from the roughly $774 million yearly the NCAA currently takes in. Altogether, CBS and Turner have committed nearly $20 billion to the NCAA in rights fees. And that's important for the NCAA's lifeblood.

The NCAA gets its revenue from the 90 or so national championships the organization holds, according to NCAA president Mark Emmert. And since the NCAA doesn't conduct the College Football Playoff, the Men's Basketball Tournament is the main source of revenue. "The distribution that comes out of this revenue stream gives [member schools] the ability to host and conduct their athletic departments and programs," said Emmert.

The additional eight years will see the same game-sharing structure. As has been the way since this format began in 2011, all opening-, first- and second-round games will air across CBS, TBS, TNT and truTV, with Turner and CBS splitting coverage of the regional semi-finals and regional finals each year. Live coverage of the Final Four semi-finals and National Championship will continue to alternate between CBS and Turner each year; Turner aired the National Championship for the first time this month.

Though ratings were down across the board this year—including a record low for the National Championship—coverage across TBS, CBS, TNT and truTV has averaged more than 10.2 million total viewers. "Not only did ratings climb on [the first] five years on TV, but also in social and in digital," added Levy. "This year was sort of an anomaly." Ad revenue was 10 percent higher than in 2015, the highest since the partnership between the two companies began.

Turner and CBS Sports will maintain the existing sales partnership surrounding the NCAA Corporate Champion and Partner program, which has grown from nine to 17 members since the previous deal was announced in 2010.

This multiyear extension mimics NBC's move with the International Olympic Committee. Two years ago, NBC Sports added 12 years to its current Olympics deal through 2032. The goal was the same then as it is now for CBS and Turner: to ensure the networks can keep up with the ever-changing media landscape.

"We know that we're heading into an era of disruption and evolution in the media landscape," said Emmert. "By 2032, who knows what the landscape is going to be, but it probably will be settled down a little bit more."