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Caught up with a frenetic David Levy long enough to get some answers on the digital aspects of the blockbuster $10.8 billion 14-year deal Turner Broadcasting and CBS (NYSE: CBS) just signed with the NCAA. “Some” being the operative word because the details literally are still being worked out between the partners and with the NCAA. As president of sales, distribution and sports for the Time Warner cable programmer, this is Levy’s deal up, down and sideways. He calls it a “landmark” deal and it is, bringing a marquee sporting event that has no match to Turner. It’s not going to fill the kind of programming hours that come with the NBA, but it will put Turner’s TBS, TNT and truTV in the sports spotlight with CBS for several weeks every spring. On the digital side, it adds one of the top online sporting events to Turner’s already substantial sports digital management business — and opportunity across Time Warner (NYSE: TWX). Think of Time Inc. sibling Sports Illustrated, for instance.
What does it mean for fans? Until now, the only way to override CBS programming choices on television was to subscribe to DirecTV (NYSE: DTV) and then pay more for the March Madness package. You could get around it by watching online or on mobile — I canceled the DirecTV package in favor of PCs when CBSSports.com removed the blackout restriction — but it’s not a great big-screen experience. Starting in 2011, every game will be televised nationally in its entirety with access to anyone who gets CBS and subscribes to multi-channel video. As for March Madness on Demand, Levy insists the plan is to upgrade it. “We’re trying to figure out how we upgrade that product and make it better versus having it vanish. It’s not going to vanish.” Will every game still be streamed live? Yes. Does it have a TV Everywhere component? It could.
More on MMOD, TV Everywhere and other aspects below:
— MMOD and Turner’s digital lab: Levy explains: “We recognize, both CBS and ourselves, that particularly sports fans want that dimensional viewing, that experience across multiple platforms so March Madness on Demand is still going to be there. We’re now looking how to make it better and how to be a truly better experience for the viewer.” That’s one place Turner’s digital expertise should come in handy. “We can take what works for the NBA, what works for NASCAR, what works for PGA, what hasn