Saturday , May 21 2022
The Big Lead

CBS and Turner Embracing More Access, Vivid Storytelling As March Madness Returns to Normalcy

The 2020 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament was lost to COVID, the first major event to bear the brunt of a reality that made sporting events unviable for far too long. It returned last season in altered form, never leaving the state of Indiana. The reliable unpredictability and tension were still there, and a worthy champion emerged in Baylor, but it was a far cry from normalcy. This year, for the first time in three long and challenging springs, it will exist in its more traditional atmosphere.

CBS and Turner wore the difficulties of losing the event entirely and responded 12 months later by creating a makeshift experience as close the previous editions as they possibly could. But their impressive efforts still butted up against some real-world impracticalities. Jim Nantz, Bill Raftery, and Grant Hill shared their outlook for the upcoming tournament today on a conference call with reporters, flanked by Clark Kellogg, Tracy Wolfson, and Rex Chapman, who will be making his debut as a studio analyst — a plan that also had to be scrapped back in 2020.

You could hear the excitement in their voices. Because it will certainly be a more enjoyable experience to cover — Nantz recalled 27 consecutive days of hotel life last season in which all his meals were delivered to his room and an inability to meet his broadcasting “family” for a drink.

During the 45-minute call, though, something else emerged. An idea that the process of storytelling will be made much easier. March Madness is known for its ubiquitous crowd shots. New charismatic stars brimming with youth and personality. Legendary coaches who wear it all on their sleeves while facing elimination.

Past protocols that built barriers to telling those stories with maximum impact have been placed in the rearview mirror. CBS and Turner plan to capitalize while creating a more intimate and personal product bringing the viewer closer to the locus of action.

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