CBS Sports has owned the television broadcasting rights for the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament since 1982, and the relationship will last a lot longer. CBS, along with Time Warner's Turner Broadcasting, have extended their deal with the NCAA through 2032 in an eight-year deal worth $8.8 billion.
The deal means games will continue to be shown on CBS and Turner’s family of networks: TBS, TNT and truTV. Over the last six years, the four networks have averaged more than 10.2 million total viewers, according to a joint press release.
"The NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship has been a cornerstone of CBS Sports for more than three decades, and we are very pleased to extend our successful partnership with the NCAA and Turner under the same terms that have worked so well for us these past several years," said CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus in a statement.
"This spectacular tournament continues to solidify CBS’s position as a leading broadcaster of signature championship events, delivering an unparalleled opportunity to present one of our nation’s most popular sports franchises. Best of all, this historic extension positions CBS for a profitable future as we fully maximize the value and exposure of this great event across all assets of our corporation, both current platforms and those created during the lifetime of the deal."
In a conference call, NCAA president Mark Emmert stated that there was "absolutely no discussion about expanding the field beyond 68." The NCAA tournament varied between 22 and 25 schools between 1953 and 1974, but would slowly expand to 64 teams by 1985. It would stay that way until 2000, when it became 65 teams, and would then grow to its current 68-team format in 2011.
In 2016, the national semifinals and title game aired on TBS for the first time. The championship game ended in dramatic fashion, with the Villanova Wildcats defeating the North Carolina Tar Heels on a buzzer beater.
Sports broadcasting rights have taken on added importance in recent years, as advertisers have gravitated to live television events. Sports programming in 2014-2015 generated $8.47 billion in sales for ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox, according to Kantar Media estimates.