The new CBS and Turner Sports partnership has excelled in covering this year's NCAA men's basketball tournament. That wasn't an easy task considering it included merging the networks' announcing teams.
The expanded teams will be showcased at the Final Four this weekend from Houston's Reliant Stadium.
In the booth, Turner's Steve Kerr has joined CBS' Jim Nantz and Clark Kellogg for the first three-man alignment in CBS' 30 years of covering the Final Four.
In the studio, Turner's NBA analysts Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith have joined CBS' Greg Gumbel, Greg Anthony and Seth Davis.
Adding the low-key Kerr to the announce team already has worked well in six previous broadcasts — the Big Ten tournament semifinals and First Four games in Dayton, Ohio. A former Arizona and NBA guard, Kerr has blended in well with the mild-mannered team of Nantz and Kellogg.
“The chemistry was there right away and the neat thing is there is not a battle of egos,” Nantz said this week in a conference call. “That is not going to be an issue.”
Surprisingly, the brash Barkley also has been well-received by the CBS holdovers, even if he is covering college basketball for the first time.
“It's like you're playing on a good playoff team and all of sudden you get the best player in the league to come play with you,” Anthony said. “That's how I view Charles Barkley in the studio. Our team has a much better chance to be successful.”
Anthony noted that Barkley attracts viewers with his often-controversial comments.
“He's like this generation's E.F. Hutton,” he said, referring to the investment firm's ad campaign of people gathering to listen. “Everything Charles says, somebody wants to hear it. It's either going to be entertaining or it's going to be thought-provoking.”
Barkley doesn't mince words. After Virginia Commonwealth, which some analysts said didn't deserve a tourney berth, knocked off Kansas to earn a spot in the Final Four, he said, “Well, now they can tell everybody to shut the hell up.”
Although some analysts aren't excited about the first semifinal at 5 p.m. that matches No. 8 seed Butler and No. 11 seed VCU, Nantz disagrees in noting that he is glad the championship game Monday night will have a “Cinderella.”
“I think it says so much about where the game is going and how open this championship is to everyone,” he said. “In my 26 years of being part of the Final Four broadcast and 21 of them courtside, there has never been anything close to this.”
* Among the features planned for “The Final Four Show,” 3-5 p.m. Saturday, include profiles of Butler senior forward Matt Howard and Connecticut guard Kemba Walker, a behind-the-scenes look at VCU's surprising run, a look back at UCLA coach John Wooden's legendary career and David Letterman breaks down the bracket with analyst Bill Raftery.
* Tournament TV ratings, averaging 9.4 million total viewers, are up 11 percent over CBS' exclusive coverage last year. But that's not surprising considering four networks simultaneously covered the second and third rounds.
* CBS credits its smooth production to producer Bob Dekas and director Bob Fishman, who will be working their 30th Four Four together, the longest pairing for a sporting event in TV history.