CBS greed hurts Selection Show

Kudos to CBS Sports and the NCAA, which shortened tonight’s NCAA Tournament selection show from last year’s super-sized, two-hour version to 90 minutes this year.

The show will air at 5:30 p.m. on WTAJ (Channel 10) in our region.

Before last year, the show was only an hour long. But the show was extended last year, and it was a flop — with the reveal of the brackets happening on Twitter first (so the NCAA’s exclusive partner was essentially scooped) and a complete rundown of the field taking nearly 70 minutes.

It was greed and silliness.

Hoping to find a few more advertising dollars and generate drama, the folks in charge last year outsmarted themselves and made what for years had been a generally strong program into schlock.

In its previous, hour-long format, the selection show got to the news about who was in the tournament field fairly quickly and still provided room for some analysis and speculation.

It also included the typically unsatisfying interview with the chairman of the selection committee, who tried to explain why certain teams were selected and others were not.

While that exchange seems newsworthy every year (because some semi-worthy squad always gets left out), it’s also a bit silly.

That’s because no team left out of the field is in a position to win the tournament anyway and, really, that’s the purpose of the endeavor.

Still, paring this year’s edition to 90 minutes might be a good thing. It should be better TV.

The CBS team includes Greg Gumbel, Clark Kellogg and Seth Davis in New York City while Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith will provide input while based in Atlanta.

On-court NCAA Tournament action tips off Tuesday with the First Four on truTV. Play-by-play man Brian Anderson and analyst Clark Kellogg will work those games. On Wednesday, Spero Dedes gets the play-by-play assignment with analysts Len Elmore and Steve Smith.

Mat matters

For college wrestling fans, ESPN promises “unmatched coverage” of the Division I championships from Thursday through Saturday.

That means prime-time coverage on ESPN all three nights — with second-round action at 7 p.m. Thursday, semifinals at 8 p.m. Friday and championship finals at 8 p.m. Saturday.

Coverage begins at noon Thursday on ESPNU. That network also has the quarterfinals (11 a.m. Friday) and medal round (11 a.m. Saturday).

Fans can find coverage online with ESPN3 of all three days and all six sessions. That option will allow fans to select form a multi-mat view or pick the match they watch. Overall it’s an approach that provides options and variety for fans.

There’s really only one downside to ESPN’s plans: Billy Baldwin. It’s hard not to appreciate the high-profile support the actor and former college wrestler has provided for the sport, but he offers little to enhance a viewer’s experience during nationals.

Last year, instead of insight he provided mostly clichÈs. Maybe he’s improved, though. We’ll see.

Noting NASCAR

After a slight season-opening uptick in ratings and viewership for the Daytona 500, how significant competition changes impact TV viewing of stock car racing’s top series will be determined in the weeks to come.

First, NASCAR cut its races into pieces — two shorter segments followed by a longer final segment, all of which award points and have a winner. So, in theory, every lap of every race matters more than ever before.

Additionally, NASCAR has limited the amount of time teams can use to repair a car during the race. All repairs must be conducted on pit row. If repairs cannot be completed in five minutes or if the car goes behind the wall, it will not be allowed to return to the race.

For TV purposes, that puts action more prominently on pit row. In theory it also gets damaged cars that are limping around the track only to gather points, and potentially at the detriment of other drivers, out of the way.

Maybe the changes will translate into better ratings and viewership throughout the season, and NASCAR officials would appreciate such improvement. Still, it’s a long season and the races themselves can sometimes be long and not the most TV friendly endeavors.

Tuner tidbits

n Wow, those early round Big Ten Tournament games in Washington, D.C., sure made it look like folks were not interested in men’s college basketball in the nation’s capital — and that’s just not the case. Basketball fans there simply might not be as interested in the Big Ten as they would be in the ACC. But logical geographic boundaries hardly matter anymore.

n Fox Sports made a good, and expected, signing for its on-air baseball team by securing Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod was solid in his debut with the network last postseason. He’ll work as a studio analyst and game analyst for select Saturday games.

n Sports Illustrated has reported that ESPN could be making some significant cuts in on-air talent over the next few months in budget-related moves. While ESPN’s content (the games themselves) matters, consistency and trust in the on-air personnel does impact viewership with other programming. It’ll be interesting to see who leaves, who remains and what that means for competitors like CBS Sports Network, Fox Sports, NBC Sports Network or wherever else proven talent finds a home.

Sampsell can be reached at stevesampsell@gmail.com.

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