NEW YORK — For the last 36 years, college basketball fans have tuned in to CBS at 6 p.m. on Selection Sunday to watch the unveiling of the NCAA Tournament bracket.
This year, if you put on Channel 3 at that hour, you’ll get the national evening news.
Turner has had the right to put the Selection Show on cable in years when it has televised the Final Four ever since the partnership began. The network hasn’t exercised the option until this year.
“As we evolved and moved forward, we said, ‘You know what? Viewing habits are starting to change, people are finding things wherever they need to find them, let’s do something different with the selection show,” Turner Sports president David Levy said at a gathering for media in Manhattan on Tuesday.
Levy acknowledged that the viewership might drop for this year’s bracket unveiling because of the move from over-the-air TV to cable. But he and his colleagues are ready for that.
“Things take time — tradition takes time, breaking tradition takes time, and starting new habits takes time,” he said. “If there’s less ratings, fine; if there’s bigger ratings, fine.”
The show will look different from previous editions in some notable ways. The biggest, announced Tuesday by Levy, is that instead of naming the at-large teams as the bracket is revealed, the show will first “announce the teams right out of the gate,” then lay out the bracket matchups “in the first hour.”
Once the tournament starts, most of the infrastructure will be the same as it has been in the CBS-Turner era. All 67 games will be televised nationally: 21 on CBS, 21 on TBS (including the Final Four and national championship game), 13 on truTV and 12 on TNT.
All games will be streamed online via the NCAA’s website, and through apps for phones, tablets and connected TV devices like AppleTV, Chromecast and Roku. The AppleTV app will allow viewers to watch up to three games on one screen simultaneously.
“When people talk about all the ways you can watch it, that’s really the true measure of success,” Levy said. “It’s not just about television ratings, it’s how it’s doing on all these platforms [that are] how people are consuming it.”
The biggest new addition this year is an online streaming feature called Fast Break, which will be a live whip-around show that jumps around all 32 games on the frenetic first Thursday and Friday.
“Every year, we think about how we can present the tournament in a new, innovative and creative way,” CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus said. “If you look at the way we did the tournament eight years ago, I think everybody in the room would be shocked, because it would look very retro… We thought we were innovative back then. Look at what we’re doing now, and the comparison would be unbelievably stark.”