Debut of Turner’s “Teamcasts” Offers New Twist on Final Four SaturdayPosted by Bennet Hayes on April 3rd, 2014
Despite the participation of familiar programs Kentucky, Florida, Connecticut and Wisconsin, Final Four Saturday will look a little different this weekend. For one, games will be televised on a network other than CBS for the first time since 1982 (TBS), but the CBS/Turner partnership didn’t stop there in its overhaul of National Semifinals programming. We took inventory of the newfangled approach when it was announced back in November, but the introduction of “Teamcasts” – two additional, school-specific telecasts to air on TNT and truTV simultaneous to TBS’ national broadcast – will become a reality on Saturday evening. If successful, the idea could lead to even more specialization in coverage down the road (merits of a journey down this path could be debated), but for now, Teamcasts should provide all viewers – both bipartisan and neutral – a healthy, optional alternative to the national coverage they are used to consuming during the Final Four.
The TBS telecast should still pull in the majority of Final Four viewers, but it will be interesting to see just how significant a segment shift their television sets to the team-specific broadcasts elsewhere. A smattering of fans without a team in the Final Four will undoubtedly use their remotes for the occasional change-of-pace offered by the Teamcasts, but I question how many Kentucky, UConn, Florida or Wisconsin fans will even make the switch. Hearing Jim Nantz, Steve Kerr and Greg Anthony discuss your team can pleasantly solidify the magnitude of the moment your team finds itself competing in — whether you enjoy listening to that trio or not. Following along with a more familiar, school-specific crew may offer thoughtful, precise insights, but it might also make the Final Four experience feel a bit more ordinary than it would with the national crew.
What’s more, many of the broadcasting selections for the Teamcasts don’t even appear to be current guys for the four schools. See for yourself here, but aside from the Kentucky crew, most of the broadcasting teams appear to be currently working other gigs despite maintaining strong affiliations to their respective localities. If I’m a fan of one of these teams and thinking about watching one of these alternative broadcasts, I need the broadcasting team to be a group of people who have been with my program every step of the season – not some guy who covered the school five years ago and now needs a set of notes to tell the story of this year.
As a neutral observer to this Final Four, my TV will likely wander over to TNT and truTV intermittently. Who knows, if I like what I hear, I may even stick around there for a while, especially if Greg Anthony is talking too much on TBS. But ironically, if I had a team still alive in this NCAA Tournament, I’m pretty confident I would not be leaving TBS. Pushing biased observers to the national broadcast is clearly not Turner and CBS’ goal with this experiment, but much like we expect all four coaches to stick to the game plans that got them to this stage on Saturday night, I’d imagine that many fans will resist changing up their programming setup for their team’s biggest game of the season.
Only time (and ratings) will tell whether Teamcasts are a successful foray into personalizing broadcast coverage, but for now, the cachet of national guys like Nantz, Kerr and Anthony should be plenty heavy enough to keep viewers’ eyes on TBS. However, a hyperopic glance at the television industry could easily foresee a day where specialized broadcasts reign supreme, and narrators like Nantz are stifled long before they ever build a following significant enough to attract neutral viewers, even on a stage as grand as the Final Four. Conferences are building their own networks (Big Ten, Pac-12, SEC soon), and even individual programs (hello Longhorn Network) are opting for their own specialized coverage, so it may not be terribly unlikely that we have only begun to scrape the tip of the iceberg when it comes to narrowing our broadcasting focus on college athletics. Still though, many, many additional dominoes would have to fall to bring about the day where the Final Four is only available on something like Teamcasts, so for now, enjoy this new (and fun, I think) twist on one of the biggest days in college hoops.