By Joe Regan,
Sports Business Writer
An attempt to capitalize on the popularity of their Selection Sunday broadcast may have dearly cost television giant CBS. Selection Sunday is one of if not the most heavily awaited day of the college basketball season.
As many know, “March Madness” is a beloved time of the year, and the unveiling of the NCAA tournament field is anxiously awaited by millions as they are eager to pick the perfect bracket. However, this year was different as CBS decided to lengthen their coverage of Selection Sunday from 60 minutes to 120 minutes in order to maximize advertising revenues accrued from the highly viewed special.
This change subjected millions to an incredibly slow-paced special where each region of the bracket was introduced separately, approximately 20 minutes apart. In the meantime, viewers had the pleasure of watching former NBA-star Charles Barkley struggle to make his selections with an apparently tricky touchscreen.
Luckily for everyone who was upset with the new length of the selection show, a man named Eric Rosenthal was there to help. Rosenthal, who founded Page2Sports.com, is reported to have been the mastermind behind leaking the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee’s bracket for the 2016 NCAA tournament. Thanks to Rosenthal the bracket was available online just 25 minutes into CBS’s broadcast, relegating Barkley and the rest of his crew to damage control for the rest of the broadcast as the show dragged on.
On a day typically filled with controversial decisions, such as which teams should and should not have been selected to the field of 68, CBS’s decision to double up on their coverage seems to have been the most egregious. The decision by CBS to lengthen the show was puzzling to many, after the ratings for the Selection Sunday broadcast had continued to decline over the last few years. In hindsight, making the show twice as long doesn’t appear to be the optimal solution to this ratings problem.
This year’s ratings were the lowest for the Selection Sunday broadcast in the last twenty years, this was due to both the length of the show and the fact that the bracket was available online very early into the program, leaving there little reason for the casual fan to endure the last grueling hour and a half.
Based on this disaster for both the NCAA and CBS, it will be intriguing to see if the decision to lengthen the show will be rethought and moved back to the original one-hour time slot, or if CBS will alter their method of unveiling the bracket to ensure that they are able to prevent people like Eric Rosenthal from reaching the masses with the bracket before they can.
Nowadays with the exposure to social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook, anything can go viral in a matter of moments, which is the reason it makes sense for CBS to release the entire bracket during the front-end of the telecast and then analyze each of the four regions for the remaining time, however long that may be.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, March 22nd print edition.
Contact Joe at