On Tuesday, Warner Bros. Discovery and CBS held a joint media call with NCAA Tournament analysts Clark Kellogg, Charles Barkley, and Jay Wright. Those analysts are an interesting group, as they have rather different histories of covering this event: Kellogg has been working on CBS men’s basketball coverage since 1993, while Barkley came in in 2011 (the first year of the CBS/Turner partnership), and Wright is in his first year in a full-time media role at CBS. AA asked each of them on that call Tuesday about how they see March Madness coverage today compared to its history, and Barkley said he loves the comprehensive tournament coverage possible under the CBS/WBD partnership.
“It’s great, and I’m not just saying that because I’m working it,” Barkley said. “Me and Clark and Jay are so old, we remember back in our day they just gave you the one game and you had to watch it. And now, if you go to Kennesaw State or Xavier, you can go watch your college team play. They wouldn’t have shown that nationally. Gonzaga, maybe they would have shown Gonzaga, but they’re playing Grand Canyon, which is out my way. I think it’s great for the fans.”
Barkley said he thinks that partnership and its ability to show every game nationally is one of the biggest and best broadcasting changes across sports.
“I think this TV deal putting us on four different networks is one of the greatest things to ever happen, to be honest with you. Cause, man, everybody loves March Madness, but until we did this deal, you got the big schools they wanted you to see on CBS. And now, Oral Roberts, they’re going to get a chance to watch their team play Duke, those kids at Oral Roberts. Those kids at Charleston, they’re going to get a chance to see their team play. So if you don’t think that’s cool, you’re not a real sports fan, because everybody wants to see their college team play in March Madness.”
Wright said he’s still getting used to the TV side, but he saw that change and the value of it during his coaching days.
“I’m a rookie at this, but I think to Charles’ point, when you’re in the tournament also, it’s really valuable. One of my favorite things to do when I was in the tournament was to come back to the hotel, and I’d marked down what all those stations were, truTV, CBS, what the numbers were, and I’d just go through watching all the games. And it’s so awesome to be able to see all these games. And I do remember the time, as Charles said, when you only would get a couple of games.”
Wright said his work on the TV side has only elevated the importance and significance of the tournament for him.
“I said this a couple of times before I got into TV, but now I’m starting to learn more about it; I really believe this is the greatest sporting event in our country. I love the Masters, and I love the Super Bowl, but there’s nothing that brings people together like this, our entire country and the entire basketball world.”
He said it’s also valuable to have the NBA connections of the Inside The NBA cast on these broadcasts, as that helps reinforce that this is about basketball overall.
“I think bringing Charles, Kenny, Ernie, and the NBA guys that are doing this, all the NBA guys are connected to college. It’s basketball, it’s a celebration nationally of basketball. And the connection with Turner, CBS, now Warner Bros. Discovery, the connection just brings this whole tournament to a whole other level, because you’re getting the NBA guys who are at the highest level of basketball involved with it and bringing back their college memories. And it’s really celebrating college basketball. I think it’s the best sporting event in our country, and I think it’s covered the best of any sporting event in our country.”
Kellogg endorsed both of those viewpoints, and said the CBS/Turner partnership has elevated the tournament to a new level.
“Amen, amen, amen, and amen. Since the partnership with Turner in 2011, that coincided with the expansion of the field from 64 to 68 and the First Four. And it’s become so much more fan-friendly. There’s a magic sauce to this whole festival of basketball over the month of March and the first week of April that it’s hard to really quantify, other than you know it as you watch it and you feel it and you see every piece of it being brought to you in an amazingly high-level way; the human interest stories, the behind-the-scenes looks at teams and players and officials and everybody associated with the game, the bracket watches and brackets and all the stuff that galvanizes and brings people together. And it’s really covered extremely well by CBS and Warner over the last dozen years, and it’s really served the game and the fans extraordinarily well. And I think that continues into the future.”
Following Tuesday and Wednesday’s First Four, the NCAA Tournament’s first round begins Thursday. The first game will be Maryland-West Virginia on CBS at 12:15 p.m. ET. Check out our Viewing Picks for the day’s full broadcast information.