College Basketball On CBS - History - 2000s


The Final Four has been broadcast in HDTV since 1999. From 2000 to 2004, only one first/second round site and one regional site were designated as HDTV sites. In 2005, all regional games were broadcast in HDTV, and four first and second round sites were designated for HDTV coverage. Local stations broadcasting in both digital and analog had the option of airing separate games on their HD and SD channels, to take advantage of the available high definition coverage.

In 2001, CBS assigned the team of Jim Nantz and Billy Packer to a Thursday/Saturday tournament regional for the first time ever. The following year had CBS broadcast the Saturday second round quadrupleheader at 1 p.m. and the Final Four to 6 p.m. for the first time.

On March 20 and 21, 2003, CBS provided Iraq War coverage during the afternoon sessions. As a result, ESPN carried the tournament games using CBS announcers. This also led CBS to expand to a quadrupleheader on Sunday March 23. Also in 2003, CBS struck a deal with Yahoo! to offer live streaming of the first three rounds of games under its Yahoo! Platinum service, for $16.95 a month.

For 2004, CBS assigned Jim Nantz and Billy Packer to a Thursday-Saturday regional for the third time in four years. This was also the only year that team of Nantz and Packer worked Thursday-Saturday tournament games on each of the first two weekends. Also 2004, CBS sold access to March Madness On Demand for $9.95, which provided games not otherwise shown on broadcast television. The service was free for AOL subscribers. In 2005, the service charged $19.95 but offered enhanced coverage of pregame and postgame interviews and press conferences.

In 2006, March Madness On Demand was available free of charge, but dropped the coverage of interviews and press conferences. The service was profitable and set a record for simultaneous online streams at 268,000. March Madness On Demand has been available free to online users in all subsequent years.

In addition, CBS College Sports Network (formerly CSTV) broadcast two "late early" games that would not otherwise be broadcast nationally. These were the second games in the daytime session in the Pacific Time Zone, to avoid starting games before 10 a.m. These games are also available via March Madness on Demand and on CBS affiliates in the market areas of the team playing. In most markets, stations break between 5 and 7 p.m. EDT for regular late afternoon programming, which consists of local news and the CBS Evening News, plus other syndicated programming such as The Oprah Winfrey Show. In areas where The Price is Right was pre-empted for basketball, the game show aired in this window. CBS-CS also broadcast the official pregame and postgame shows and press conferences from the teams involved.

Beginning in 2007, all games in the tournament (including all first and second round games) were available in high definition, and local stations were required to air the same game on both their analog and digital channels. However, due to satellite limitations, first round "constant" feeds were only available in standard definition. Some digital television stations choose not to participate in HDTV broadcasts of the first and second rounds and the regional semifinals, and split their signal into digital subchannels to show all games going on simultaneously. Most notably, WRAL-TV in Raleigh, North Carolina has split its digital signal four ways since 2000 to show all of the games. In 2007, CBS broadcast all games from each regional site in HDTV, however, due to limitations in the CBS broadcast center, only the "Flex" feeds were in HD, constant feeds were in SD. Upgrades at the CBS broadcast center allowed all feeds, flex and constant, to be in HD for the 2008 tournament.

For the 2008 tournament, CBS moved the Saturday regional final doubleheader to 6:30 p.m. 2008 also marked the last NCAA tournament to be broadcast by Billy Packer (as he would be replaced by Clark Kellogg), a run that started in 1974.

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