This being the second year of the Team Stream concept on the Final Four, you can bet that the CBS/Turner NCAA Tournament consortium is working to ensure people know what they’re watching. Last year, some viewers who clicked on TNT and truTV were unaware of the local calls for the Final Four and they complained wildly on social media. By the time Charles Barkley scolded viewers for not understanding the concept, it was too late.

CBS/Turner has even rebranded the local homer calls this year from “Teamcasts” to “Team Streams,” but the concept is the same. Announcers with ties to the Final Four teams will be calling the games on TNT and truTV today.

To learn more about the Team Streams, Awful Announcing spoke with Craig Barry, Senior Vice President of Production and Executive Creative Director at Turner Sports and Harold Bryant, Executive Producer and Senior Vice President of CBS Sports.

Awful Announcing: What was the whole idea behind the Team Streams and when was the concept hatched, was it last year?

Craig Barry: I think it even starts earlier than that. I think it starts when the partnership began. We had this internal mantra specifically between Harold and I which is the fan comes first. And honestly, that started with making sure that we could put every game on air so that the fan and the viewer was free to watch whatever game they wanted to in its entirety. So I think the extension of that and around the philosophy that you’re only as good as your last show or in this case, your last event, and you keep pushing the envelope to create a better fan experience.

The next extension for us was to think about a way to create a better experience for the fan, an extended experience. Thinking about the traditional over the tops and companions and we realized that we have these assets, networks and announcers and we have the ability to create a really special and specific experience for fans of the teams that were in the Final Four. That was really was the genesis of it. It was “how to be innovative,” “how to be creative,” and “how to create a better, more dynamic experience.”

In this day and age, I think the media landscape not only calls, but I think it demands choices for people, for the viewer, for the fan and that’s what we’re trying to cater to.

Harold Bryant: We are always trying to think of ways to provide the viewer an additional way to consume the tournament and as we all know, things are becoming more and more specialized in our business whether it’s digital, print, TV or radio and this was a natural evolution of what was coming next.

Last year was the first year, but these ideas are always constantly floating around. It was just one of many ideas that all of us have thrown out there trying to improve that experience for the viewer.

AA: With last year being the first year of the localized feeds on TNT and truTV, there was some viewer confusion. What is being done to ensure that the fans aren’t confused this year?

HB: On the broadcast itself, we are focused on letting the viewer know through graphics and through the announcers saying “You are watching the Team Stream for Kentucky,” “This is the Kentucky broadcast” so we are going to verbally emphasize that and visually as well with graphics coming out of every commercial, scoreboards, and if it’s a long stretch, pop up a graphic reminding people and the announcers will constantly remind them. We learned from last year and we’re going to step it up another level to inform the viewer of what they’re watching.

CB: One of the things I do after all of our events is not only do I look at the ratings and look at the shows back, but I also compile a social report where I can look at all of the social media that’s wrapped around a certain event. The net of that was that there was a lot of positive feedback and not a lot of negative feedback, but there was definitely some confusion in the middle. So to alleviate that confusion, we created a much better navigation for the networks.

First and foremost in promotion leading in, new spots, a lot more communication and only through the press, but to the public via the shows again and promotion, and then a much more robust navigational tool actually that will air during the shows that will say what you’re watching and where the options are to watch the other streams.

AA: Will the cable providers’ programing guides reflect the Team Streams to show that TNT and truTV are team specific? Last year, some of the guides did not reflect those differences.

CB: That’s a by-product of the actual cable companies and we’re working on that with them. It’s been an on-going communication with them throughout the week since we found out which teams would be in. So that’s really our marketing and programming guides, but I know that’s been an on-going conversation so I’m hoping to see that today, but I can’t speak definitively that it will happen, but know all the resources that we have are pushing to that.

AA: What was the thinking behind hiring some of the announcers for each Team Stream?

CB: The philosophy behind each stream is that it’s homer-based so whether that’s local or regional to make sure it has the feel and it’s not just the announcers, but the replays, the content and the interviews, literally the packaging is all skewed toward the team.

We’ve tried to compile a set of announcers that we feel represents that kind of skew to the team. Now with that being said, this is still a national broadcast so we still have the obligation to make sure that everybody we have on the game can operate on the national network level. Some of the people we’ve hired have worked with us before or ones we have a lot of confidence in and we feel who can do the job.

AA: What was the reasoning on the hiring of Rex Chapman?

CB: Rex worked for us last year and he was a standout and he was part of the reason that that stream was so successful. Rex has some issues. He owns them. We feel he has taken the appropriate steps to get help and try to rectify his mistakes and we feel he deserves a second chance.


About Ken Fang

Ken has been covering the sports media in earnest at his own site, Fang's Bites since May 2007 and at Awful Announcing since March 2013.

He provides a unique perspective having been an award-winning radio news reporter in Providence and having worked in local television.

Fang celebrates the four Boston Red Sox World Championships in the 21st Century, but continues to be a long-suffering Cleveland Browns fan.