ESPN has reportedly offered $800 Million year for 14 years to the NCAA for the National Championship Basketball Tournament, but CBS - the longtime rights holder - will not give up March Madness without a fight.
CBS has teamed up with Turner Broadcasting to propose a 14-year deal that is worth more annually. ESPN has indicated to the NCAA that they will not increase their bid.
Even before the confetti could be cleaned up off the court from Duke's 61-59 win over Butler this month, it became apparent that the NCAA was going to opt out of its current contract with CBS and expand the tournament to 96 teams.
ESPN was the presumed front runner since it had dual revenue streams to strengthen the monetary bid as well as multiple channels to offer national exposure for every game.
CBS turned to Turner Broadcasting as its cable partner and has put together a deal that will allow every game in the expanded tournament to be seen nationally.
Under the CBS/Turner proposal, each game in the tournament would air nationally across CBS, TNT, TBS and truTV (formerly Court TV).
TBS and TNT are strong cable outlets each with over 100 million subscribers, and TruTV is available in over 93 million homes. All three networks are available in HD.
The NCAA is also very interested in the multiple platforms that can be used for video on demand. ESPN.com obviously fits the bill, but CBS has a proven track record with the NCAA with its March Madness on Demand platform.
No final decision has been made but the favored choice is expected to be presented at the NCAA executive committee meeting April 29.
If the CBS/Turner package is the winning bid, the Final Four will be on cable every other year.
Who knows, maybe the late night talk duo of George Lopez and Conan O'Brien can do a special rendition of "One Shining Moment."