CBS, Turner Sports All in For Year Two of March Madness

After teaming up for a strong freshman effort at the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament in 2011, the CBS and Turner Sports production teams are looking to avoid a sophomore slump in year two of a 14-year, $10.8 billion deal with the NCAA.

The two entities will once again combine to air all 67 games live in their entirety across four networks – CBS, TNT, TBS, and TruTV. In an effort to improve on its 2011 debut, CBS and Turner will add a few new bells and whistles, including an increased complement of super slo-mo cameras and ActionCam aerial camera systems, virtual 3D analysis tools from LiberoVision and Red Bee, and an expanded set in New Orleans for the on-site studio show at the Final Four and Championship Game.

“I would say we are six months ahead of where we were last year because we had a base to start from this year in terms of production. Last year there was a lot more unknown,” says Harold Bryant, VP of production and executive producer at CBS Sports. “But we still went back and looked at everything again to see how we could improve from last year. We decided that certain cameras didn’t work so we moved some cameras around and added a few.”

More Production Toys To Play With
In 2011, super slo-mos and an extra courtside slash position were only deployed at select locations. This year, however, these elements will be a standard for every single game. In addition, ActionCams will be available at every venue beginning with the round of 16 after only being available at one venue per round last season.

“Last year we had these cameras at a few select sites, but this year we wanted to arm all the production teams with that level of equipment,” says Jeff Behnke, executive producer/SVP, Turner Sports. “So our engineers and technical guys worked very hard with the NCAA to figure out how we could do it logistically and how we could fit it into the budget.”

Every game will also once again have robotic cameras above both baskets, as was the case last year.

Welcoming LiberoVision and Red Bee
Virtual graphics systems from LiberoVision and Red Bee will make their March Madness during the Sweet 16. LiberoVision’s Libero Highlight and Red Bee’s Piero systems provide 360-degree panoramic replays of the action on the floor. The system stitches together shots from different cameras, allowing the user of the system to freeze the frame and then swing around the shot to show a different angle. One system from each company will be on hand at a venue from the round of 16 on.

“We talked to people and did plenty of surveys after [last year’s tournament] and this was one of the things that the younger [demographics] really enjoy so we decided to bring that in,” says Bryant. “We are going to try to use it as much as possible in-game and then, of course during pregame, halftime, and postgame.”

Graphics Kicked Up Notch
Last year, CBS and Turner designed a uniform graphics package used for all tournament telecasts, regardless of which network the game aired on. This package will be brought back for another round, but with more emphasis on the “close-game alerts” that appear on the score bar across the top of the screen. This score bar is driven by SMT Technology.

“Last year, on the score bar, there was a blinking blue light next to a game score to indicate a close game,” says Behnke. “This year, we’ve upgraded that so that it is a bit more illuminated. Then we are also adding a little sound tone when a game is close to make sure the viewer knows the best available game at all times.”

Courtside Reporters Back for Round Two
After a short hiatus, courtside reporters made a return to March Madness last season. CBS Sports had ceased using them in the mid 2000s, but, last year, the decision was made to take advantage of Turner’s embarrassment of riches when it comes to sideline talent, including Craig Sager, Marty Snider, Lesley Visser, and Tracy Wolfson.

“I am a big proponent of [courtside] reporters and we have some of the best in the business,” says Behnke. “Not only for the game coverage, but they can also add so much good content for the pregame and postgame as well as features for”

Synergizing the Sets
Last year, CBS and Turner built brand new studios in New York and Atlanta in advance of the tournament, but the on-site Final Four set remained from previous years. This year, CBS and Turner have switched up the on-site set by fully redesigning and expanding it from 24 x 24 ft. to 32 x 32 ft.

“The Final Four set will compliment the other two sets so that they all have a similar feel,” says Bryant. “We will have a new desk and new imagery around the desk, as well as a bigger footprint so that we can do a little bit more on the set with demos. It is still in the student section, it is just a little bit bigger.”

The New Orleans Superdome will also feature a secondary 12 x 12 ft. set directly across from the primary set in the student section.

The CBS Broadcast Center in New York City will once again serve as the transmission hub for all NCAA Tournament games and handle all commercial insertion.

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