Cable Operators

CBS Ushers in New Era Of Madness With TVs Tuned to Turner, Too

3/21/2011 12:01 AM Eastern

CBS, continuing its rite of late winter,
provided media, network officials and ad executives
who are NCAA tournament fans with a chance to get a
gander of all the March Madness at its broadcast center
in Manhattan on Thursday.

Unlike years past, though, the monitors were not
tuned solely to CBS’s various feeds from the different
regional arenas. Instead, games airing on TNT, TBS and
TruTV were also on display as part of the new team: CBS
and Turner Sports inked a 14-year, $10.8 billion deal with
the NCAA for March Madness rights.

The Saint Patrick’s Day afternoon crowd on West 57th
Street witnessed maximum Madness: cries of excitement
for the late three-point shot by Morehead State’s Demonte
Harper and groans by Louisville supporters when the Eagles’
Kenneth Faried blocked Mike Marra’s last-second jumper to
seal the upset win over the Cardinals.

Those were the sounds of millions
of brackets nationwide being
busted, live on TBS.

Ditto for those on the right or wrong
sides of down-to-the wire action
in which favorites Kentucky (CBS),
Temple (TNT) and last year’s finalist Butler (TruTV) barely
prevailed over Princeton, Penn State and Old Dominion, respectively.
Those with ties to Vanderbilt didn’t think the
outcome was “very funny” on TBS as the Commodores
got caught in the Richmond Spiders’ upset web.

Under the old format, CBS would have been buzzing
viewers about with its wrap-around format. Now, NCAA
fans watching at home have to play director via channel
remote in order to be fully immersed in the Madness.

Fortunately for those with flat screens at home, TruTV
secured launches of its HD simulcast channel on at least
nine big distributors ahead of games last Tuesday.

The payoff ? On Friday, the first Nielsen numbers showed
the four nets scored a 5.0 U.S. overnight household rating and
12.2 share across four windows. That was up 19% from CBS’s
solo coverage of the first Thursday of the 2010 tournament.
The 7.4 million total viewers were the most since the tourney
went to the four-window telecast format in 1991.

Sprint Slaps Caps
As CEO Dan Hesse
Defi nes ‘Unlimited’

Sprint is looking to capitalize on the flap over usagebased
pricing to promote its broadband service.
Some network-neutrality activists have been taking aim at
usage-based pricing
as a potential
anticompetitive
tool, lately targeting
AT&T over
the March 12
news it would
cap customers
at 150 gigabytes
per month. The
average AT&T
broadband customer uses about 18 GB per month.

Coincidentally, March 12 is the same date Sprint promoted
a new TV ad with CEO Dan Hesse looking to use
cap criticisms as a product differentiator and co-opting
the vocabulary of usage-cap bashers.

In the ad, Hesse says: “The other day, I looked up the
word unlimited in the dictionary. Nowhere in the definition
did I see words like metering, overage or throttling, which
is code for slowing you down. Only Sprint gives you true
unlimited calling, texting, surfing, TV
and navigation on all phones. … Why
limit yourself?”

An executive at a competing carrier
quipped: “Is it good or bad that he had
to use a dictionary to look up ‘unlimited?’

Sounds like Sprint is limiting itself
to unlimited plans going forward;
otherwise someone will face a “no new taxes” moment.

Darlene Earns Love
From the Rock Hall

NEW YORK — Darlene Love, the
great ’60’s singer (“He’s A Rebel”),
inspired Bette Midler, and Midler in
turn inducted Love into the Rock and
Roll Hall of Fame last Monday night.
“Listening to those songs, you had
to dance, you had to move, you had
to keep looking for the rebel boy,”
Midler said in a highlight of the 26th
version of the annual ceremony, at
the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. Later
— much later — the two joined in the final encore, “Da
Doo Ron Ron,” along with Alice Cooper, who looked
decidedly unaccustomed to covering a girl group tune.
And yes Bruce Springsteen is on guitar behind Love.

A two-hour version of the five-hour ceremony aired on
Fuse March 20 and re-airs Friday, March 25, at 9 p.m.

March