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How The NCAA Tournament Went From Tape Delay To TV Juggernaut

“Imagine living in the Midwest or East at the time and only getting to see the great UCLA teams of that day in the title game.”

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Believe it or not, there was a time when you couldn’t watch every NCAA Tournament game live. Hard to fathom now that you can not only watch all the games live, but you can stream them as well. At any given time, you can dial in one of the four networks covering the action, CBS, TBS, TNT and TruTV and see a live game in its entirety. There were some 12 hours of games brought to you live during each day of the first weekend. It’s incredible and what every college basketball fan dreams of. It wasn’t always that way. 

Back in the day, the telecasts were pretty raw. Not many graphics and no score bug. The score and time left would flash up after a made basket and going to and coming back from commercial breaks. Imagine tuning into a game in progress and not knowing the score? How spoiled have we gotten? The answer? Very. 

If you have Direct TV, turn to ch 205 to watch all four games at once. :  CollegeBasketball

Thankfully the tournament broadcast has evolved as quickly as my bracket was busted on night number one of the big dance. That’s pretty fast, you’ll just have to trust me on that. So how did we get to the point of being able to see every game from start to finish? It was a long slow process that eventually caught up to the needs of the rabid fan. 

The current format is more than fans could ask for. When the contract between the NCAA, CBS and Turner was signed after the 2010 Tournament, some were skeptical. The fact that games were going to be spread out over several networks was unique for sure. Would fans embrace what seemed chaotic? 

“That’s going to take some getting used to, but it’s a better programming option for the viewer at home and the basketball fan,” CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus said in an interview with The Associated Press in 2010. “More work on his or her part to find the game, but they get to decide what game they want to watch. In the past, I think we did a very good job of moving around, but it was our decision.” A costly decision with the deal worth a reported 10.8-billion dollars. 

“The tournament’s success outgrew one network’s ability to provide the coverage fans were looking for,” David Levy, then the president of Turner Sports, said in 2010. There’s a lot of truth in that statement. This current deal solved the issue of ‘cutaways’ and also infused talent from both CBS and the Turner properties together. Greg Gumbel, Ernie Johnson Jr, Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, Clark Kellogg, Seth Davis and others joined forces to provide in-depth and informative studio shows. The collaboration is working. 

Let’s dive into a little history here on the tournament, which was really the second fiddle to the NIT for many years until the 1960’s. The first broadcast of the NCAA Tournament championship game dates back to 1946. New York’s CBS-TV televised the Oklahoma State vs. North Carolina game, won by the Cowboys. It was estimated that an audience of just 500-thousand saw the title contest. 

It wasn’t until 1952 that games were televised regionally for the first time. Then in 1954 La Salle defeated Bradley in the first nationally televised title game. It all changed in 1969. NBC paid about a half million dollars for the rights to the tournament. They televised a doubleheader on the opening day of the tournament, then allowing each market to get two of the four regional final games. 

The Final Four started on a Thursday, but each market would get just one of the games. Can you imagine today only getting a chance to see ONE of the national semifinal games? Championship and consolation games were played on a Saturday and both were televised by NBC. 

In those days teams were divided into brackets based on geography. So, East Coast teams were placed in the East Region. The other regions were the West, Mideast and Midwest. You would only get East regional matchups televised in the Eastern part of the country and so on. Imagine living in the Midwest or East at the time and only getting to see the great UCLA teams of that day in the title game.

The Greatest College Basketball Team of All Time – A Sip of Sports

NBC would eventually expand some of its coverage in the early 1970’s, finally airing both national semifinal games. In the late 70’s NBC included opening weekend Sunday games and prime time regional coverage of four regional semifinal games, one for each market. 

Things started to change for the better when, in 1980, an infant sports network known as ESPN got into the fray. ESPN picked up the NCAA Productions feeds of a couple of games on the opening Thursday night and then three on the first Friday night of the tournament. ESPN also picked up these feeds for the regional semifinals the following Thu/Fri carrying five games live and the other three on tape delay. Not a perfect situation, but better. Then CBS entered the picture. 

In 1982 CBS debuted the Selection Sunday Show to announce the teams that made the tournament and what matchups were ahead. CBS added coverage of the opening round with live late-night games from the West Region on Thursday and Friday at 11:30 pm in the eastern time zone. The coverage featured a tripleheader on the first Saturday as well. ESPN stayed in the picture for the time being, picking up the NCAA Productions feeds and carried live doubleheaders on the opening Thursday and Friday nights. ESPN also ran many games on tape delay after the CBS 11:30 telecast both nights.

The coverage further expanded in 1983 and 1984, but then the tournament itself expanded to 64 teams in 1985. CBS would step up their game. This resulted in almost non-stop basketball for nearly 55 consecutive hours from Thursday at noon through early Saturday evening. Things stayed largely the same until 1991, when ESPN was cut out of the picture and CBS began a new seven-year contract that was for upwards of one-billion dollars. This time the deal included live coverage of all sessions of the championship. No more tape delay. 

In 1999 DirecTV entered the picture with the Mega March Madness package. That enabled viewers to see every out-of-market region games during the first three rounds of the tourney. 

In the years to follow, the NCAA Tournament was available as a live stream. CBSSports.com and later the official March Madness Live app provided you coverage of the games. Remember the “boss” button? If you were watching on your computer, you’d hit the button and a fake spreadsheet would pop up to make it seem like you were still working. Ingenious.  

Things kind of stayed status-quo until 2007. That’s when CBS allowed what was then called CSTV, now known as CBS Sports Network, to air one of the regular network’s games each day on the first Thursday and Friday. This was the case until 2009. 

Everything changed after the 2010 Tournament. The mega-deal between the NCAA and it’s now two television partners, CBS and the Turner Networks gave us what is today our “new normal” when watching games. Yes, they are spread out across a multitude of channels, but the games are in HD, the graphics are terrific and the basketball itself has been very entertaining. 

Think of how far we’ve come from the early days of the tournament and television. Watching the games in 1990, just 31 years ago, you wouldn’t have known any better not to see on your screen how many timeouts each team had. Right? Could you even have imagined the possibility of seeing the shot clock on your screen at all times? Going back even a little further to 1970, would you have been so bold to demand to watch a game live instead of tape delay? Mindboggling to think that we used to rely on announcers and us actually paying attention to know the details of a game without being spoon fed the info. We weren’t looking at our smart phones or typing on our iPads or tablets either. 

Redesigned NCAA March Madness Live App Expands Platforms

Some of you were not around before this wealth of technology and graphics so you are probably reading in horror. It wasn’t so bad, it’s all we knew. Though if given the choice I’d much prefer today’s telecasts. The information, the camera shots, the in-game reports from the sidelines and graphics to support all of the above make it a much more enjoyable watch. Oh and of course there’s our “One Shining Moment”. What did we ever do without that? 

In saying all this, there is just one question left to ask; what does TruTV actually show the other 11 months of the year?

BSM Writers

Adam The Bull Is Giving Cleveland Something It’s Never Had Before

“It was only more recently that I was like why do I have to only be a radio guy?”

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After spending 22 years on the radio, Adam “The Bull” Gerstenhaber was ready for a new adventure.  In fact, the former co-host of Bull and Fox on 92.3 The Fan in Cleveland did not have a new job lined up when he signed off from his 11-year radio home last month.

“I was already leaving without having a new project,” admitted Gerstenhaber during a recent phone interview with BSM.  “I left before I knew for sure I had a ‘next project’.”

Gerstenhaber was preparing for his final show with co-host Dustin Fox on April 1st when he was contacted by an executive producer for TEGNA, a company that was developing a Cleveland sports television show on YouTube.  The executive producer, who had just found out that Bull was a free agent, made it clear that he wanted Bull to be a part of the new project.

It all came together very quickly. 

“Let’s talk on Monday,” Gerstenhaber told the executive producer. “And within a week they signed me up.”

The Ultimate Cleveland Sports Show on YouTube featuring Gerstenhaber, former ESPN personality Jay Crawford, 92.3 The Fan’s Garrett Bush, and rotating hosts to make up a four-person round-table show, made its debut last Monday.  The show, which airs weekdays from 11am to 1pm, features passionate Cleveland sports talk, live guests, either in-studio or via Zoom, as well as interaction from the audience through social media.

“I’m very excited,” said Gerstenhaber.  “It’s a definite adjustment for me after 22 years on radio doing television.  For the last 11 years, I’ve been doing a radio show with just one other host and I was the lead guy doing most of the talking and now I’m on a show with three other people and it’s such an adjustment.  So far, I’m having a ball.”  

And so far, the reaction to the show has been very positive.

A big reason why is that it’s something that Cleveland didn’t have and really never had, unlike a city like New York, where there are local radio shows that are simulcast on regional sports channels. 

“There’s nothing like that in Cleveland,” said Gerstenhaber.  “And there was certainly nothing like this with a panel.  Cleveland is such a massive sports town and now people that don’t live in Cleveland that are maybe retired in Florida or Arizona, now they actually have a TV show that they can watch that’s Cleveland-centric.”

The new venture certainly represents a big change in what Bull has been used to in his radio career.  He’s enjoying the freedom of not having to follow a hard clock for this show. In fact, there have already been some occasions where the show has been able to go a little longer than scheduled because they have the flexibility to do that on YouTube.

Doing a show on YouTube gives the panel a great opportunity to go deep into topics and spend some quality time with guests.  And while there is no cursing on the show at the moment, there could be the potential for that down the road.

Don’t expect the show is going to become X-rated or anything like that, but the objective is to be able to capture the spirit and emotion of being a sports fan and host.

“It’s something we may do in the future,” said Gerstenhaber.  “Not curse just to curse but it gives us the option if we get fired up.  It is allowed because there’s no restrictions there.  The company doesn’t want us to do it at the moment.”  

There’s also been the shift for Gerstenhaber from being the “point guard” on his old radio show, driving the conversation and doing most of the talking, to now taking a step back and having Crawford distributing the ball on the television show.

For a guy called “The Bull”, that will take some getting used to. 

“Jay is a pro’s pro,” said Gerstenhaber.  “He’s the point guard for this but he’s also part of the conversation.  I’m not used to not being the point guard so I have to adjust to that.  I think it’s gone pretty well and the chemistry is pretty good and with time we’ll get used to the flow of it.”  

Gerstenhaber’s move from sports radio to an internet television show is a perfect example of how the industry is changing.  A good portion of the listening and viewing audience these days, especially those in the younger demographic, are not necessarily watching traditional television or listening to terrestrial radio.  For a lot of sports fans, watching and listening on a mobile device or a computer has become a very important way of life.

The desire to adapt, along with a shorter workday, was very enticing to him.

“It was only more recently that I was like why do I have to only be a radio guy?” wondered Gerstenhaber.  “There were things about my job that I was unhappy about.  I was doing a five-hour radio show.  It’s too long. That’s crazy.  Nobody should be doing a five-hour radio show at this point.” 

Broadcasting on the internet has arrived and it’s not just a couple of sports fans doing a show from their garage anymore.  The business has evolved to the point where the technology has provided more opportunities for those who have already enjoyed success in the industry and are looking for new challenges.

Kind of like Adam The Bull!

“I think years ago, probably like many people in the radio business, we looked at internet and podcasts as like whatever…those guys aren’t professionals…they’re amateurs,” said Gerstenhaber.  “But the game has changed.”

Gerstenhaber, Crawford and everyone associated with the “Ultimate Cleveland Sports Show” should not have much of a problem attracting the younger audience. That demographic is already accustomed to watching shows on YouTube and other streaming platforms.  The challenge now is to get the more mature audience on board. There are certainly some obstacles there.

I know this from experience with trying to explain to my mother in Florida how she can hear me on the radio and watch me on television simply by using her tablet.

Bull can certainly relate to that.

“My mother is still trying to figure out how to watch the show live,” said Gerstenhaber with a chuckle.  “The older fans struggle with that. A lot of my older fans here in Cleveland are like how do I watch it? For people that are under 40 and certainly people that under 30, watching a YouTube show is like okay I watch everything on my phone or device.  It’s such a divide and obviously as the years go by, that group will increase.” 

With the television show off and running, Gerstenhaber still has a passion for his roots and that’s the radio side of the business.  In the next couple of weeks, “The Bull” is set to announce the launch of two podcasts, one daily and one weekly, that will begin next month.  But he also hasn’t ruled out the possibility of returning to terrestrial radio at some point.

“I have not closed the door to radio,” said Gerstenhaber.  “I still love radio.  I would still, in the right set of circumstances, consider going back to radio but it would have to really be the perfect situation.  I’m excited about (the television show) and right now I don’t want to do anything else but I’m certainly going to remain open-minded to radio if a really excellent opportunity came up.”

The landscape of the broadcasting industry, particularly when it comes to sports, has certainly changed over the years and continues to evolve.  Adam Gerstenhaber certainly enjoyed a tremendous amount of success on the radio side, both in New York and in Cleveland, but now he has made the transition to something new with the YouTube television show and he’s committed to making it a success.

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BSM Writers

I Heard A Lot of Boring, Uncreative Sports Radio On Friday

“Sometimes your first idea is your best one. You don’t know that though if you stop thinking after one idea. That is what it feels like happens a lot the day after NFL schedules are released”

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Maybe this one is on me for expecting better. Maybe I need to take my own advice and accept that there are times the sports radio audience just wants a little comfort food. Still, this is my column and I am going to complain because I listened to probably six different stations on Friday and all of them were doing the exact same thing.

The NFL schedule was released on Thursday night, so on Friday, regardless of daypart, every show seemingly felt obligated to have the same three conversations.

  1. How many games will the home team win?
  2. What does the number of primetime games we got mean for how much respect we have nationally?
  3. Why do the Lions still get to play on Thanksgiving?

Football is king. I get that. Concrete NFL news is always going to take priority. That is understandable. But where was even an ounce of creativity? Where was the desire to do better – not just better than the competition, but better than the other shows in your own building?

I listened to shows in markets from across the league. The conversations were the same regardless of size or history of success. Everyone that picked in the top 5 in last month’s draft is going to go 10-7. Every team that got less than 5 primetime games feels disrespected. It was all so boring.

Those of us in the industry don’t consume content the way listeners do. We all know that. Perhaps I am harping on something that is only a problem to me because I listen to sports talk radio for a living. If you don’t ever want to put more than the bare minimum of effort into your show, decide that is the reason for my reaction and go click on another article here.

Consider this though, maybe the fact that I listen to so much sports radio means I know how much quality there is in this industry. Maybe it means that I can spot someone talented that is phoning it in.

I want to be clear in my point. There is value in giving your record prediction for the home team. Listeners look at the people on the radio as experts. I will bet some futures bets in a lot of markets were made on Friday based on what the gambler heard coming through their speakers. All I want to get across is there is a way to have that conversation that isn’t taking two segments to go through each week one by one. I heard no less than three stations do that on Friday.

Sometimes your first idea is your best one. You don’t know that though if you stop thinking after one idea. That is what it feels like happens a lot the day after NFL schedules are released. It’s a very familiar rhythm: pick the wins, get a guest on to preview the week 1 opponent, take calls, texts and tweets with the listeners’ predictions.

I didn’t hear anyone ask their listeners to sell them on the over for wins. I didn’t hear anyone give me weeks that you could skip Red Zone because one matchup is just too damn good. I didn’t hear anyone go through the Sunday Night Football schedule and pick out the weeks to schedule dates because the matchup isn’t worth it.

Maybe none of those ideas are winners, and that is fine. They are literally three dumb ideas I pulled out of the air. But they are all ways to review the schedule that could potentially leave a smile on your listener’s face.

Show prep is so important, especially in a group setting. It is your chance to tell your partner, producer, or host that you know you can do better than the idea that has just been thrown out. Quit nodding in agreement and challenge each other! It may mean a little more work for you, but it means more reward for the listeners. And if the listeners know they can rely on you for quality, creative content, that leads to more reward for you.

And lay off the Lions. It’s Thanksgiving. You’re stuck at home. The NFL could give you Lions vs Jaguars and you’d watch.

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BSM Writers

Why You Should Be Making Great TikTok Content

“We’re specially trained in the world of TSL (time spent listening), and the longer people view your content on TikTok, the more the app rewards you by shoving your content into more and more feeds.”

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It feels like there’s a new social media platform to pay attention to every other week. That makes it easy to overlook when one of them actually presents value to your brand. It wasn’t long ago that TikTok was primarily used by teenagers with the focus being silly dance trends filmed for video consumption with their friends and followers alike. Now, as the general public has become in tune with how this complicated app works, it’s grown far beyond that.

TikTok is now an app used by all types of demographics and unlike TikTok’s closely related cousins Instagram and Facebook, this app provides a certain type of nuance that I think people in our line of work can really excel in. 

Before I get into the nuts and bolts of how you can use TikTok to your advantage and how to make your videos catch on, I think it’s important to first mention why this matters for you. Now, if I’m being realistic, I’m sure there are some that have already stopped reading this or those that could scroll away fast enough when they saw the words TikTok. You might be thinking that this doesn’t fit your demo, or maybe that it’s a waste of time because productivity here won’t directly lead to an uptick in Nielsen ratings. But I’m not sure any social network directly leads to what we ultimately get judged on, and we aren’t always pumping out content directly to our core audience.

TikTok, like any other app you may use, is marketing. This is another free tool to let people out there know who you are and what you offer in this endless sea of content. And the beauty of TikTok is that it directly caters its algorithm to content creators just like us. Bottom line, if you are a personality in sports talk, there’s no reason you can’t be crushing it on TikTok right now. All it takes is a little direction, focus, consistency, and a plan. 

Unlike Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter where you can throw a photo up with a caption and be done for the day, TikTok’s whole model is built on creative videos that keep users engaged for longer periods of time. This approach works. According to Oberlo, a social media stat tracking site, people spend more time per day on TikTok than any other popular social media application. 38 minutes per day!

This is where this is good news for us in talk radio. We’re specially trained in the world of TSL (time spent listening), and the longer people view your content on TikTok, the more the app rewards you by shoving your content into more and more feeds. TikTok’s algorithm doesn’t care how many followers you have, your level of credibility, or the production on your video. All ir cares about is 1) Is your content good. and 2) Are people watching it. 3) How long are they watching it. The more people watch and the longer they watch creates a snowball effect. Your videos views will skyrocket, sometimes within hours. 

So, how do you create content that will catch on? It’s really not all that different than what you do every day. Create thought-provoking commentary that makes people think, argue, or stay till the end to get the info you teased up for them. I’ve found through my own trial and error that it’s best if you stay away from time-sensitive material, I’ve had more success the more evergreen my content is. That way, the shelf life expands beyond just that day or week. This is different for everyone and there’s no one-size-fits-all, but this is where I’ve seen the most success. 

Also, put yourself out there, don’t be afraid to say something that people are going to vehemently disagree with. Again, it’s not unlike what we do every day. It’s one thing to get someone to listen, it’s another to get them to engage. Once they hit you in the comment section, you’ve got them hooked. Comments breed more views and on and on. But don’t just let those sit there, even the smallest interaction back like a shoulder shrug emoji can go a long way in creating more play for your video. 

If you want to grow quickly, create a niche for yourself. The best content creators that I follow on TikTok all put out very similar content for most of their videos. This means, unlike Instagram where it’s great to show what a wildly interesting and eclectic person you are, TikTok users want to know what they’re getting the second your face pops up on that screen. So if you are the sports history guy, be the sports history guy all the time. If you are the top 5 list guy, be the top 5 list guy all the time, and on and on, you get the point. 

Other simple tricks

  • Splice small videos together. Don’t shoot one long video. 
  • 90 seconds to 2 minutes is a sweet spot amount of time. 
  • Add a soft layer of background instrumental music (this feature is found in the app when you are putting the finishing touches on your video) 
  • Label your video across the screen at the start and time it out so that it disappears seconds later. This way a user gets an idea of what the content is immediately and then can focus on you delivering your message thereafter.  
  • Research trending hashtags, they are far more important than whatever you caption your video. 
  • Use closed captions so that people can follow your video without sound. 

Finally, don’t be intimidated by it or snub your nose at it. Anything that helps your brand is worth doing and anything worth doing is worth doing well. 

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