College Basketball Preview: CBS Sports’ Broadcast, Cable Arms Join Forces on Extensive Slate

After locking down two key conference packages and further uniting its broadcast and cable networks, CBS Sports has much to celebrate heading into the 2013-14 NCAA basketball season. CBS Sports and CBS Sports Network will combine to produce the Eye’s most extensive men’s college-basketball schedule ever, featuring 240 games, including six Conference Championships.

Earlier this year, CBS Sports acquired the rights to televise both the current Big East Conference and the former Big East, now American Athletic Conference. Beginning this season, the network will broadcast two Big East games on CBS and 18 on CBS Sports Network through a sublicensing deal with Fox Sports, expanding to 30 total games per year next season and continuing through 2018-19. CBS Sports and CBS Sports Network will combine to show 29 American Athletic Conference games as part of a long-term rights deal running through 2019-20.

“We are excited about our new agreement with Fox, which extends our 30-year relationship with the Big East Conference,” says CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus in a press release. “[The] announcement continues our recent string of new agreements strengthening our programming and further solidifying CBS Sports as the leader in college basketball.”

CBS Sports’ college-basketball coverage will reflect the growing synergy between the network’s broadcast and cable arms. Over the summer, Steve Karasik was elevated from senior coordinating producer to VP of remote production and now oversees remote production for both CBS Sports and CBS Sports Network (Tyler Hale now oversees studio production for both).

“Everything that we’re doing on the broadcast side we’re mirroring on the cable side,” explains Karasik. “So, when you’re watching a game on CBS Sports Network, in terms of the skill and the look of all of our animations, all of our insert graphics, it’s going to look exactly the same. We’ve shared a look before, but now that everybody is under one umbrella, I think it will upgrade the look and feel of the game right off the bat.”

With more than 200 games on the docket, CBS Sports Network tipped off its basketball slate on Nov. 9; CBS Sports’ 40-game schedule begins Dec. 9. Together, the two will showcase top teams and matchups from 20 conferences.

“We’re all on the same page, and judging by our college-football coverage, which started in September, it’s been a great success internally for us,” says Karasik. “Everyone feels that it’s not like cable is an afterthought, that cable is just as much a thought in everyone’s mind at CBS Sports as is the broadcast side. So we’re pleased with the way it’s gone so far.”

Emphasis on Enhanced Audio
This season, CBS Sports will be working with the conferences to allow more access to in-game audio, whether it be recording a coach’s locker-room speech, wiring a referee for sound, or listening in on a pregame huddle (the NCAA does not allow microphones on players).

“Basketball fans today, and sports fans in general, are getting accustomed to being a fly on the wall in places that they’ve never been able to go to before,” says Karasik. “We’ve done this a little bit in the past, but we’re really making a concerted effort this year to push the envelope, to work with the tools we have on our schedule, and get as much inside access for our fans.”

According to Karasik, CBS Sports Network provides an excellent testing ground for broadcast technology. “We’re really going to push the envelope,” he says. “We think the cable side is also a good place to take some chances. Use it sort of as a laboratory for stuff that we might want to later try on the broadcast side. We’re going to do that this year.”

Red Bee Returns: This Time, For All
CBS returns Red Bee Media’s Basketball Multicam System to the production complement, a staple of the past two Final Four broadcasts, which links multiple camera angles for a more comprehensive view of the play. Rather than going on the road with specific crews, however, the technology will remain housed in CBS Sports’ New York City headquarters.

“What we are going to do is have this technology in our studio in New York and feed in plays from the remote sites, turn them around in New York, and then send them right back out to the remote, digitally, so our guys can quickly get them back on the air,” Karasik explains. “If we have two or three or four different games on a weekend, instead of picking [our best game], we can now service every remote and get this technology on every game.”

As March Madness approaches, CBS Sports will begin to add specialty cameras, including high-speed and robotic, to the complement for marquee matchups. CBS Sports will broadcast the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship for the 33rd consecutive year, including a partnership since 2011 with Turner Sports to provide exclusive live coverage of every game in its entirety across CBS, TBS, TNT, and truTV.

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