ESPN doesn't have rights to the NCAA Tournament, bu tthey are getting creative when it comes to finding ways around covering events they don't have television rights to.  First it was syndicating Spanish language ESPN Deportes on ESPN for the World Baseball Classic.  Now, for the NCAA Tournament, ESPN is offering a new way to take in March Madness… well, at least Grantland is…

Throughout the first round of the NCAA Tournament, Bill Simmons will be providing a running stream of commentary with Jalen Rose and others from Grantland.  Via All Things D

"But ESPN, which isn’t paying a penny for the games, has figured out how to get in on the action, too. Bill Simmons, the sports network’s star columnist/podcaster/broadcaster/editor, will be offering up commentary during the tournament’s first two days, live, via a YouTube link.

Simmons will host the video stream from his house, along with a cast of characters from his Grantland universe, including ESPN analyst Jalen Rose and writer Rembert Browne.

The idea isn’t to compete with the games themselves, but to offer up pre- and post-game commentary at preset times, along with the option of breaking in live if something merits a pop-in."

And here's what Simmons said about the experiment…

"We want this to feel like a looser, more irreverent studio show. Like a live podcast where people feel like they are hanging out with us while watching basketball. I have no idea if this will work but we like trying new things at Grantland. … the only way we know if something will be successful is by trying. We will talk about things that I assure you none of the traditional shows will be talking about. Office pools, gambling picks, what we are eating, etc. I can also promise you no other studio show has their mother cooking all day Thursday an Italian feast for everyone to eat on Friday’s shows.

At the end of the day this really is just a convoluted way of getting ESPN to pay me to watch basketball with my friends. Oh — and now I can write off part of my man cave on my taxes.”  

If you're interested, the link to Grantland Live is here.  These kinds of running internet commentaries aren't necessarily a new idea, but it is an interesting step for Bristol.  It at least shows they're willing to work outside the box (Grantland is pretty much the most outside-the-box thing associated with ESPN).  ESPN/Grantland is taking advantage of Simmons' popularity to try and get some piece of the NCAA Tournament action.  Simmons is such a popular figure in the ESPN universe, with his podcasts drawing millions of listeners, I can't imagine this won't draw a sizeable audience.

[All Things D]

About Matt Yoder

Award winning sportswriter at The Comeback and Awful Announcing. The biggest cat in the whole wide world.