As the NCAA closes in on an April 29 meeting that could decide whether its men's basketball tournament grows from 65 to 96 teams, ESPN has said it won't increase its current bid to televise the event, the Sports Business Journal reported Friday.
The publication said a 14-year deal averaging $840 million per year has been offered by CBS and Turner Broadcasting and given to the NCAA. It cited several sources "with direct knowledge of the talks."
The Journal reported that ESPN's bid averaged "roughly $800 million per year over 14 years."
ESPN declined comment on the report.
The NCAA must decide whether to continue with the final three years of its original 11-year, $6 billion deal with CBS for the 65-team tournament. The final three years of the backloaded deal are valued at $2.131 billion, a little more than $700 million per year.
If CBS and Turner combine forces to televise a 96-team event, games would likely be on four networks: CBS, TBS, TNT and truTV, the Sports Business Journal reported. CBS and Turner would alternate years televising the Final Four, the publication said.
NCAA Senior VP/Basketball & Business Strategies Greg Shaheen, in an e-mail to the Sports Business Daily, wrote: "There is no agreement with any party. In fact, discussions/negotiations are ongoing with multiple parties. No final decisions have been made and as such, no agreements have been made."
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, speaking to USA Today prior to the Final Four, called expanding the tournament "probable."
The NCAA asked television networks for their thoughts on what they would bid for the tournament in a request for proposals sent out earlier this year.
The NCAA has an April 29 executive committee meeting in Indianapolis at which the decision to drop the current contract and engage in another would likely be made.
Earlier this week, the Sports Business Journal reported that CBS did not make money on this year's tournament. "It's pretty clear that an over-the-air network can't afford this event by itself," one executive with knowledge of the discussions said, according to the Journal.
Interim NCAA president Jim Isch has the power to decide on the TV contract. The Division I board of directors, made up of school presidents and chancellors, makes the call on whether to expand the bracket beyond 65 teams.
The NCAA makes nearly 98 percent of its money from the NCAA men's basketball tournament.
The NCAA has until July 31 to decide whether it wants to opt out of its current CBS contract.