March Madness Tips Off On Four Networks


March Madness begins in earnest today with the first chance for viewers to play director.

Given the new 14-year, $10.8 billion rights deal that CBS and Turner Sports signed with the NCAA, the 2011 tourney marks the first time that the men's division I basketball championship will see each contest air in its own national window, whether on Black Rock, TBS, TNT or TruTV.

The staggered start times and excitement/competitiveness of the contests will afford viewers the chance to check out one game, or flip between contests, a service CBS provided under its previous wrap-around format. CBS affiliates say they have fielded many phone calls from confused consumers, trying to find where the games are.

Executives at the two media companies believe the national windows will yield more GRPs, and they have essentially sold out all the advertising on the tourney by pitching marketers on an aggregate audience across the networks. The action tips today on CBS at 12:15 p.m. (ET) with West Virginia-Clemson, followed by last year's finalist Butler meeting Old Dominion at 12:40 on TruTV. TBS jumps into the game at 1:40 with Louisville-Morehead State before TNT enters the fray at 2: 10 with the Keystone State competition between Temple and Penn State.

Following the conclusion of West Virginia-Clemson, CBS has Kentucky-Princeton, while TruTV goes with Pitt and UNC-Asheville. TBS's second afternoon contest is Vanderbilt-Richmond, while TNT will show San Diego State-Northern Colorado.

The following is the Saint Patrick's night lineup:

Second Round Games
Thursday evening  March 17 (6:30 PM-12:00 AM, ET)

6:50 PM TBS Tampa III Florida vs. UC Santa Barbara

7:15 PM CBS Denver III BYU vs. Wofford

7:20 PM TNT Wash D.C. III Connecticut vs. Bucknell

7:27 PM TruTV Tucson III Wisconsin vs. Belmont

after conclusion -- TBS Tampa IV UCLA vs. Michigan St.

after conclusion --  CBS Denver IV St. John's vs. Gonzaga

after conclusion -- TNT Wash. D.C.IV Cincinnati vs. Missouri

after conclusion -- TruTV Tucson IV Kansas St. vs. Utah St.