The men’s NCAA Tournament coverage will have a new sound this month.
Reggie Miller and Chris Webber are out, while play-by-player Lisa Byington will make significant history. And Jim Jackson receives a promotion.
A year after the NCAAs were canceled due to the pandemic, the tournament will be in a bubble setup in Indiana starting next week. It will not only look different, but it will have a new sound on the CBS and Turner networks.
Craig Barry, Turner’s executive vice president, said Miller and Webber opted out of the tournament for “personal reasons.” Miller and his wife have a newborn. Webber made his decision this week.
For the NBA, Turner has been calling games from the studio, while all announcers will be on site in the bubble. With Miller out, Kevin Harlan will team with Dan Bonner.
Webber’s absence has created an opportunity for Jackson. The former Ohio State star and NBA All-Star, Jackson, will receive the promotion into the hard to crack Sweet 16 and Elite Eight rounds of the tournament. He will work with Brian Anderson, who has teamed with Jackson on the NBA since last season.
Meanwhile, Byington moves from sideline reporting to play-by-play, which will make her the first woman to call a men’s NCAA Tournament. She will team with former Michigan State star Steve Smith.
CBS/Turner have added Avery Johnson and Brendan Haywood as analysts, while former Mets radio man Tom McCarthy will be a new play-by-player for the opening two rounds.
Omar and Terry to SNY
SNY will utilize Omar Minaya and Terry Collins this year, The Post has learned. The exact plans are not yet ironed out, but the former Mets GM and manager — both with engaging personalities — will be a part of some of the studio coverage.
SportsCenter and NHL
The idea that the move to Disney somehow will improve the NHL’s reach acts as if it were 1998 instead of 2021. SportsCenter will likely feature more hockey now that ESPN/ABC are the home of the Stanley Cup, but does that matter in a digital world?
It can’t hurt to be mentioned, but reaching fans through TikTok, Instagram or podcasts seems like a better way to find more younger viewers.
This is not a shot at SportsCenter, which still has a lot of social relevance, it is just the $2.8 billion deal between Disney and the NHL is more about digital than anything else. ESPN+ received ample programming, while the NHL received ample money.
The NHL’s current business partner, NBC, is not exactly small potatoes. This season, it will have 16 regular-season games, akin to a full NFL season, on broadcast TV.
The NHL and Disney deal makes sense for both sides, but improved reach is not really one of the reasons in the digital world of 2021.
Stoops, there is is
In accessing sports TV, fans and analysts often focus on the “who” instead of the “how.” So Urban Meyer was underwhelming in his first run as a TV analyst on ESPN, while he was universally praised on Fox’s “Big Noon Kickoff.” The “who” didn’t change, the “how” did.
Fox put Meyer in position to talk about coaching, not just do takes as part of a panel. So much of TV, especially for ex-players and coaches, is about how they are utilized and whether their partners make them better.
That takes us to Fox’s new hire, Bob Stoops, who is replacing Meyer on “Big Noon Kickoff.” If Fox utilizes him right, then Stoops could work out well. But, while Stoops will have to want to be good and put in the time, his success will be about how he is positioned as much as who he is.
YES has begun advertising its new stand-alone app for streaming. Around Opening Day, YES will no longer be able to be streamed on the Fox Sports app, so it will just be YES.