CBS Keeps NCAA Tournament Coverage Moving

Bookended by overtime matchups and full of upsets and buzzer-beaters, the first four days of the NCAA Tournament offered basketball fans everything they could want — and CBS Sports covered every game across the country from tip to buzzer. Led by CBS VP of Production Harold Bryant, the CBS Sports team was more aggressive this year in moving among matchups to deliver the best action available.

“We were more conscious [this year] to quickly move people if there was a game that was getting out of hand,” Bryant explains. “If there’s a tight game, we’re not going to move you away from it, but there were some games that were blowouts. When it gets to 12 or 14 points, we’ll look at that and say, there’s a better game going on in another region, so let’s take the audience over there.”

The production team had to make a difficult choice in the New York region: in Sunday’s Cornell-Wisconsin game, the No. 12 seed Big Red ran away with an 87-69 win over the No. 4 seed Badgers, leading the entire game by as much as 20 points.

“The Cornell game was a tough one,” Bryant says. “We know there’s a good fan base in New York, so we stayed on that a little bit longer. But we eventually took the fans around to many different games.”

No infrastructure changes were made this year to allow that quick-switching between games; it was more a result of the production team’s becoming more comfortable with the event and with each other.

“A lot of it comes from experience,” Bryant points out. “The people that we have in place are looking at those games a little bit more intensely and saying, this game is a little bit of a blowout, let’s move them. More eyeballs, more experience, more people watching these things — with our producers, directors, and operations people, it becomes intuitive after a while as to when we do the switching.”

The tournament’s first week began and ended with overtime. Thursday’s first game went to overtime, as did Sunday’s final game. Three games went to OT on Thursday alone, which was more extra time in the first day of the 2010 tournament than in all 65 games of the 2009 edition. However, with plenty of planning and staggered starts, the elongated games did not have an adverse effect on CBS’s production plan.

“Some of the games overlap, but we have contingencies for those,” Bryant says. “If your next game is scheduled to tip off in another region, we can take the audience to see that and then bring the audience back for a close finish or give them a quick update. But timing-wise, the overtimes didn’t cause any issues that day.”

CBS works with the NCAA to stagger start times so that there is always action going on, and the studio is used only sparingly in the first week.

“Action-wise, this tournament has been great,” Bryant says. “The most surprising thing was the upset of Kansas, but that doesn’t really alter our production plan. We still have the same number of cameras and equipment and people covering it. We treat every game the same.”

One new addition for the tournament’s second week will be backboard cameras at all four regional sites.

“We were able to add robotics above the backboard in all four regions,” Bryant says. “You will be able to look down and see slams and see how the defense is setting up.”

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