Once a year, millions of sports fans tune into college basketball to watch March Madness, reveling in the buzzer-beaters and upsets that make it one of the premier sporting events on the calendar. With all the attention it has received, the tournament has become a hot commodity, attracting billions of dollars in broadcasting rights deals and partnerships. Former Michigan Sport Business Conference speakers have played an integral role on the business side of the event, becoming involved in everything from team sponsorship deals to televising games.
Jordan Brand President Larry Miller, who spoke at the MSBC in 2016, has played a major role in these sponsorship deals. In his role, he has expanded the presence of Jordan Brand, enabling it to use college athletics as a platform for its products. Major college sporting events, such as March Madness, attract more casual viewers which aids Miller in his goal of growing Jordan Brand from a shoe company into a lifestyle brand. With a developing team and increasing sponsorship portfolio, Jordan Brand looks to have an even bigger March Madness presence than it has had previously.
CBS and Turner have worked to grow the March Madness platform, signing a joint multimedia rights deal for $8.8 billion that extends through 2032. As part of the deal, CBS and Turner broadcast every tournament game live in its entirety on TV and online. This partnership has extended across the CBS, TBS, TNT and truTV networks and brought record viewership to the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Online streaming hours have doubled since 2011 and the four networks have averaged 10.2 million viewers during their broadcast windows. In order to maximize the value of the contract, each network has added original programming around the tournament, seeking to attract extra viewers. Turner also runs the NCAA March Madness app, ensuring that digital content is facilitated smoothly to an increasingly digitally-focused audience.
Two leading actors in the CBS and Turner collaboration have been David Levy, President of Turner, and David Berson, President of CBS Sports. Both of these media executives have spoken at the MSBC in past years, with Berson appearing at the inaugural conference and Levy speaking last year. Their foresight in collaborating has created one of the most valuable deals in sports media rights history, and allowed a dynamic team of networks to provide a seamless approach to watching the tournament. Reporting on many of these games has been CBS Sports Host Dana Jacobson, who was a conference emcee at the MSBC in past years. She helped add in-depth reporting to CBS’ broadcasts, improving the overall viewer experience.
Past MSBC speakers left their mark on the business side of March Madness, both marketing their brands and executing one of the biggest media rights deals in history. With the current success of the tournament, it will be interesting to see what former MSBC speakers do next.