After negative reviews, CBS is reverting back to the old format of the NCAA tournament Selection Show.

By Jacob Feldman
March 12, 2019

The NCAA Tournament Selection Show is returning to form. “We’re going back to basics,” CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus announced at a press event Tuesday. On Sunday, his network will air a one-hour live show with brackets released near the top of the hour. “We’re going to basically do what we used to,” McManus said.

CBS and Turner Sports, which partner on the tournament, had been experimenting with the March Madness event since 2016, when CBS moved the show up to 5:30 p.m. ET and stretched it to two hours. The presentation drew its lowest rating in 20 years, partly because a bracket leaked over an hour before the hosts had finished unveiling the field.

In 2017, the show was cut to 90 minutes. Last year, it moved to TBS, went back to two hours, debuted a novel format—the list of 68 teams were announced in the first segment, but the full bracket was held for later—and received another round of negative reviews.

Fan reaction convinced CBS to shorten and simplify the show while setting a 6 p.m. start time again. “Being very honest,” McManus said, “we tried something new and we were not serving the viewer as well as we could, so we live and we learn.”

McManus explained his thinking while sitting next to his new peer in the endeavor, Jeff Zucker, the CNN president who now also oversees WarnerMedia’s sports division as part of a re-organization brought on by AT&T’s acquisition of the brands. Zucker signaled that Turner is on board with the new-again format.

“I don’t think there’s any harm in trying,” he said. “When things don’t necessarily go as well as you would hope, you change it. There’s no shame in that. At the end of the day, you have to give the fans what they want."

Greg Gumbel will host the show from New York, along with analysts Clark Kellogg and Seth Davis. Selection Committee Chair Bernard Muir will come on to answer questions after the bracket is shown. “The success of the selection show will be based on how efficiently, clearly, and distinctly we can present the information that we have,” Gumbel said.

Rather than having a second hour on television, Turner Sports and CBS will be putting a bracket analysis show featuring Andy Katz on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and other platforms starting at 7 p.m.

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