March Madness returns with live coverage of the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament. CBS has been televising the Tournament since 1982 and was the exclusive broadcaster for all games (except the Tuesday play-in game) from 1991 through 2010. The only exception was 2003 when the daytime first round games were moved to ESPN to accommodate CBS News' coverage of the Gulf War.
The 2011 Tournament marked a new-era of television coverage as the $10.8 billion, 14-year contract with CBS and Turner kicked in. The 67 games will be spread across four networks (CBS, TNT, TBS and truTV) allowing for all games to be televised nationally.
The Tournament, one of the most popular events on the U.S. sporting calendar, is a single knockout tournament staged annually at various sites across America. The field, increased to 68 teams (from 65) for 2011, is made up of 32 automatic bids for conference tournament winners and 36 at-large bids as determined by a selection committee. The committee also determines the seeding for each participant. The tournament takes place over three weeks beginning in mid-March.
There are four geographic regions with 16 teams each and the winner of each region qualifies for the national semi-finals, which are better known as the Final Four. During the first week, there are two First Four games (which reduce each region to 16 teams) each on Tuesday and Wednesday, 16 second round games each on Thursday and Friday and eight third round games each on Saturday and Sunday which reduce the field to 16 teams. The 16 teams are better known as the Sweet 16. During the second week, there are four Regional semi-final games each on Thursday and Friday and two Regional final games each on Saturday and Sunday which determine the Final Four participants.
During the third week, the National semi-finals are contested on Saturday night and the National Final on Monday night. This guide begins with the 1978 Tournament, as that was the first year in which all games were televised on one network or another.
The first HDTV telecasts were the 2000 Final Four and National Championship games. From 2001 through 2006, a limited number of games were shown in HDTV and since 2007 all games have been televised in HD. The telecast format is shown in the Recap of each Tournament game for the 2000-2006 seasons.moreless