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Greg Gumbel Compares Previous Era of March Madness to Current Coverage

“I think everybody recognizes in our business the chaotic nature of it. The fans, all they want is the good clean feed of what they want to see.”

Ricky Keeler

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For 24 years, the broadcaster that has become the most synonymous with the NCAA Tournament on CBS is Greg Gumbel.

Of course, the coverage of the tournament has drastically changed since CBS merged with Turner Sports back in 2011 to televise all of the games. Before then, you had to rely on either CBS to be the remote control or buy the Mega March Madness package on DirecTV.

Gumbel was a guest on the most recent episode of the Sports Illustrated Media Podcast with Jimmy Traina. According to him, in the old days of covering the tournament, CBS knew they couldn’t please everyone so they tried to make decisions that would please as many people as possible.

“All of the games were available, but it was a whole greater good kind of thing,” said Gumbel. “The home markets where the teams were from would always get their games, but there were times that we deemed it necessary that Kentucky-UNC is down to the final minute and a half and let’s take you to the end of that game. There are some people who no matter what happens don’t want to be taken away from their game or their team. In that era, you weren’t going to please everybody, but you were trying to please most.”

“Sean McManus, we joke about it a lot,” he continued. “Before the merge with Turner, CBS was doing all of the games and it became necessary to throw from one game to another. You are never going to please everyone like that, so I would get all the complaints on my CBS voicemail and I would forward them to Sean. He came into the studio one night and said don’t do that anymore.”

In the new era of covering March Madness, Gumbel explained that there can be some chaos, especially when it comes to giving updates with all of the games going on.

“I think keeping up with everything that’s happening at a time, especially those first two days of the tournament,” he said, “Of course, towards the end of the evening, you kind of just start getting used to who’s who on what teams and then 24 hours later, it’s entirely different names, numbers, and uniforms. It’s a matter of keeping up and it gets to be a little chaotic at times because they want you to do an update here and quickly do this update over there.

“I think everybody recognizes in our business the chaotic nature of it. The fans, all they want is the good clean feed of what they want to see. Back in the old days, what they wanted to see wasn’t always what they got.”

With CBS merging with Turner Sports, Gumbel has had the chance to work with Charles Barkley often and while he doesn’t compliment people very much, Gumbel had high praise for Barkley because of his honesty about the game.

“I try not to compliment people too much because it might go to their heads, but I told Chuck I don’t know who else in the country can do commercials without seeing their picture and you know who it is,” said Gumbel. “That said, he is one of the most magnanimous, giving people I have met in a long time. He also is very quick on the air. He can take a joke and also can throw a few shots back at you too.”

“Working with him is most interesting from the standpoint that you just don’t know what he is going to say. There are a couple of times I will turn to him and I’ll say let’s talk about that first half and he will go Greg, that was the most boring half of basketball I have seen in my life. You think, well, the bosses are going no, don’t say that. But he is honest and straightforward and knows the game of basketball.”

While March Madness could still go on without watching Gumbel lead the coverage, he has become the main voice to a generation of fans every March. That can’t be forgotten even with the CBS-Turner merger. 

Sports TV News

ABC Scores Most Watched NBA Saturday Primetime Game In 4 Years

“The game drew 3.7 million viewers.”

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The Boston Celtics beat the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday night. While the game’s controversial finish left LeBron James and Patrick Beverly upset, executives at the Walt Disney Company had nothing but smiles thanks to the performance of ABC.

The game drew 3.7 million viewers. That means the Celtics’ win is the most-watched game in the ABC Saturday night prime-time window in the last four years. A February 2019 game between the Lakers and Golden State Warriors drew 4.1 million.

Boston also delivered the highest-rated game of the NBA season so far outside of the league’s stacked Christmas Day slate.

NBA Saturday Primetime on ABC is experiencing a nice uptick in viewership this season. Through the weekend, the Saturday night games are averaging over 3.4 million viewers according to an ESPN press release.

That number represents a 16% jump from last season. The edition of NBA Countdown that airs before the Saturday night game is having a good season as well. It’s average audience is up 3% to just under 1.5 million.

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Sports TV News

NHL Ratings on ESPN, TNT Down in 2nd Year

So far this season, games on ESPN and TNT are averaging 373,000 viewers, which is down from 478,000 last season.

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Viewership totals from ESPN and TNT show NHL ratings have declined heading into the All-Star break, but there are some extenuating circumstances for the nearly 22% drop.

So far this season, games on ESPN and TNT are averaging 373,000 viewers, which is down from 478,000 last season. However, both channels have increased their linear television schedule, doubling from 27 games to 54.

ESPN has aired 18 games with an average of 402,000 viewers. In the same time period last year, the worldwide leader had only aired seven contests, but garnered 622,000 per game. None of ESPN’s games last season had aired on weekends, while the network has broadcast six games on Sunday this year alone. The 12 games ESPN has aired that weren’t on Sunday have averaged 491,000 viewers.

The 2023 NHL All-Star Game will air on ABC Saturday, and the network is hoping for a lift from last season. In 2022, ratings fell 38% from the previous All-Star Game on NBC, and hit the lowest total since 2009. The NHL Skills challenge saw its largest audience in a decade after airing on ESPN in primetime on a Friday evening. Nearly 1.1 million watched the skills challenge, a 30% increase compared to 2020.

At this time last season, TNT had aired 20 games. Through 36 games this season, the network has seen an average of 359,000 viewers. The network is helped by the 2023 Winter Classic, which took place at Fenway Park on Monday, January 2nd. The afternoon contest saw an audience of 1.78 million, up 31% compared to the previous year.

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Sports TV News

AFC Championship Game Delivers New Viewership High For CBS

53.1 million viewers tuned in to see the Chiefs victory over the Bengals, making it the most-watched television program since Super Bowl LVI.

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The AFC Championship Game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Cincinnati Bengals drew a massive audience for CBS.

53.1 million viewers tuned in to see the Chiefs’ controversial victory over the Bengals, making it the most-watched television program since Super Bowl LVI. Additionally, the event is the most-watched NFL Conference Championship Game since 2017.

CBS claims the game peaked with 59.3 million viewers and was also the most-streamed live sporting event in the history of Paramount+.

With an audience of 53.1 million, CBS concludes its NFL playoff coverage averaging 40.798 million viewers for each game. That leads all networks thus far. The 2022 NFL season was the most-watched regular season on CBS in the past seven seasons.

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