The expanded 68-team tournament tips off in prime time on truTV on Tuesday, March 15, with a set of games being called the "First Four." The opening game airs at 6:30 p.m. ET followed by a game at 9 p.m. That schedule will be repeated the next day on truTV.
The First Four winners will advance to what is now known as the second round. The scheduled start times for these games on March 17 and 18 are as follows: noon (CBS), 12:30 p.m. (truTV), 1:30 p.m. (TBS) and 2 p.m. (TNT). The second set of games begin at 2:30 p.m. (CBS), 3 p.m. (truTV), 4 p.m. (TBS) and 4:30 p.m. (TNT).
Then we get to prime time. TBS opens the coverage with a 6:45 p.m. tip-off followed by games at 7 p.m. (CBS), 7:15 p.m. (TNT and truTV). The final games of the night begin at 9:15 p.m. (TBS), 9:30 p.m. (CBS), 9:45 p.m. (TNT), and 9:55 p.m. (truTV).
The staggered start times mean viewers can toggle between games, as well as get added pre- and postgame show commentary from CBS and Turner talent. (Turner Sports is in partnership with SI.com and runs the site's business operations.)
Last month, CBS and Turner announced that studio programming for halftime and postgame shows will originate from both New York and Atlanta, with the main anchor chair shared daily by CBS veteran Greg Gumbel and longtime TNT host Ernie Johnson. TNT's Inside the NBA analysts Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith will provide analysis throughout the tournament from the CBS studios in New York alongside Gumbel or Johnson. CBS analyst Greg Anthony will also be part of the New York-based studio show. The networks will share universal graphics, musical beds and unique camera angles.
CBS will televise four games on the opening weekend, beginning March 19 at noon. CBS will also air games at 2:30 p.m., 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. TNT will carry games at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. TBS will have games at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. The schedule the following day (Sunday, March 20) will be the same with the exception of truTV's airing the 7:30 p.m. game that CBS had the previous day.
The regional semifinal games on March 24 and March 25 will air on CBS (starting times are 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.) and TBS (7:15 p.m. and 9:55 p.m.).
CBS will broadcast the Elite Eight games (March 26-27). The Saturday start times are 4:20 p.m. and 6:55 p.m. The Sunday games will tip at 2:10 p.m. and 4:55 p.m.
The national semifinals (April 2, 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.) and championship game (April 4, 9 p.m.) will air on CBS. TruTV will have a one-hour tip-off show leading up to CBS' coverage on April 4 and conclude with the postgame show sometime around midnight.
CBS will air 26 games throughout the tournament. TBS will broadcast 16 games, truTV will televise 13 games and TNT will have 12 games.
CBS will air the Final Four through 2015 before ceding to Turner the following year.
USA Today first reported the networks' plans for this year's tournament on its website Thursday.