March Madness Maintains Torrid Mobile Viewing Pace


This year’s March Madness has been one of the best in over two decades in terms of television viewers but it is the best all time in terms of mobile access as increasingly fans use mobile devices to track games and video of their favorite teams or hot match ups.

The first week’s results were strong, as we recounted here, and things have not only not slowed, but as the tournament heads towards its final week viewership is increasing, even with fewer matchups to view.

The mobile and online viewership, which encompasses PCs as well as tablets and smartphones, has seen a total of 12.6 million hours of video consumed, an increase of 201% from last year with a total of 45 million live video streams for the first two weeks of the tournament, this represents a 158% increase over last year’s tournament viewership. Last year the event registered 18.3 million live video streams for the entire tournament last year.

Breaking it down to exactly what platforms are drawing the most users shows that broadband had 5 million unique visitors, up 139% while mobile apps had 3.2 million unique visitors, up 93% compared to the entire tournament last year.

If you have not viewed the games from the tournament on a mobile device but are interested there are several options. The March Madness Live app was developed in a partnership that included the NCAA, Turner Sports and CBS Sports and can be launched from, or for computers and the mobile app is available from both the App Store and Google Play.

NCAA March Madness Live app has ranked No. 1 as the top sports app in the App Store and Google Play over the first two weeks of the tournament. It was also the No. 1 free app across all categories in the App Store during that same time period.

ESPN Intros SportsCenter Feed, a Twitter and Team Stream Competitor

Here at MSR we have praised Bleacher Report’s Team Stream app for doing a great job of aggregating content we care about, namely that about the teams we like. What we like a lot about Team Stream is its embrace of content from all sources, not just Bleacher Report, to give as full a range of news and opinions as possible.

Now from the other side of the coin we have the Worldwide Leader, which today introduced a beta version of something it is calling SportsCenter Feed, which does exactly what you think it might do — brings all of ESPN’s breadth of content into one Twitter-like stream, with a kind of cool big viewing window to the side.

Though nobody doubts ESPN’s ability to give you more sports content than you could actually consume, the question we have is whether or not sports fans really want to stay inside the ESPN bubble, or whether they might prefer creating their own “feed” on say, something like Twitter itself, which as we said earlier is already the default AP wire for all of sports. For many fans ESPN might be more than enough, while others might prefer to have opinions and takes that originate somewhere other than Bristol.

Where you might see SportsCenter Feed getting some love is outside ESPN itself, as (we think) the strategy is to license the APIs so that other content aggregators or sites — like say, a team or league’s home page — could license the ESPN content which it could then show in some kind of a streaming window. Some mobile sports apps like PlayUp are already experimenting with similar sports news feeds, so that users of those apps don’t need to log on to another app or site to get scores and other info.

What is clear is that ESPN is making good on its pledge to do things digitally first, even if that means sabotaging some of its current cash cows (if you sift through SportsCenter Feed, for instance, you may not need to turn on your TV to sit through the commercials on the regular SportsCenter broadcasts). So even as Twitter and other new options look for a sporting edge, the Worldwide Leader is going to be the Yankees in this arena as well. Not that the Yankees can’t lose, but you will need a good game plan to beat their killer lineup.

Bleacher Report adds Group Interaction Feature to Team Stream App

The popular Team Stream app from sports site Bleacher Report is getting more interactive, with the release of a new version that adds the ability for people to share their sports-team preferences with friends. Available initially only for the iPhone version of Team Stream, the “groups” feature will let fans share not only news but opinions with each other, bringing Team Stream into the field of smack-talk/interactive sports apps like PlayUp and others.

Bleacher Report, which was recently acquired by Turner Sports for approximately $180 million, claims to have 1 million users of its Team Stream app, which brings a constant “stream” of sports news, opinions, tweets and other content from the Web and organizes it by team for easy consumption. By adding an interactive feature Bleacher Report is seeking to keep fans embedded in Team Stream longer, instead of having to leave it to share opinions or news with friends who share the same team interests.

Fan interaction is hardly a new feature on the web, as sharing opinions and sports news seems to be one of the bigger things happening on Twitter these days. And standalone apps like PlayUp have already found big crowds of fans who want to set up or join sports-specific, game-specific or team-specific “rooms” or other online gathering places to interact. Team Stream, which has been focused on providing news and other content, is coming at the sharing equation from another direction, but one that seems to make sense as sharing apps like PlayUp have recently started adding news feeds to their feature set.

“We’ve found that most sports fans have small but distinct groups of friends they talk to about their favorite sports or teams, but still lack a simple way of sharing and reacting to news with them,” said David Finocchio, Chief Content and Product Officer at Bleacher Report, in a press release. “This version of Team Stream fills that void by providing a more efficient way for fans to quickly share the latest on their teams with the right group of friends and then react together.”

According to Bleacher Report, the new feature allows users to “easily add their friends to a group and share their favorite stories with them. Friends can open the group, read the shared stories and easily reply to the group all from their phones.” From an outside perspective the feature might also act as a good recruiting tool for B/R, allowing current Team Stream users to introduce the app to friends who might not have heard of it before. According to Bleacher Report the new 2.0 version of the Team Stream app will be developed for the Android and iPad versions of the app sometime in the future, but is only available now for the iPhone.

Bleacher Report Sold to Turner Sports

The rich get richer as Turner Broadcasting Systems has purchased Bleacher Report, a six year old sports news web site in a deal that has been estimated at being valued between $170 million and $200 million according to Forbes. Bleacher Report was founded in 2006 by four friends, Bryan Goldberg, Dave Finocchio, Zander Freund and Dave Nemetz. Three are still at the company but Freund left in 2009.

Turner said that it will use Bleacher Report as an additional outlet for its sports programming including highlight videos and breaking news. Turner has a vast spread of sports content and this will enabled to expand the scope of fans that it can reach.

Looking at different analytic tools shows that the site gets approximately 10 million unique viewers a month, although the total number of visitors including repeat, is significantly higher. Combine that with the other Turner properties that include the web sites for the NBA, NCAA and the PGA as well as a relationship with NASCAR as well means more potential upside for Bleacher Report.

Forbes points out that the new viewers that the deal brings in will nicely replace an almost identical number that it lost when Sports Illustrated bolted for a new corporate parent to host its web pages. Bleacher Report is also attractive because of its reach to mobile device users; according to the company thanks to innovations like its Team Stream app (which aggregates sports content from all over, not just from B/R writers) it was getting more than 40 percent of its audience through a mobile connection, a number that has likely since grown.

The merging of print and broadcast media with on-line and digital is getting more common it seems. The recent announcement of the creation of Sports on Earth site by Major League Baseball Advanced Media and USA Today being a very recent example of this trend.

Recapp Launches Simple But Powerful Sports News Reader App

Home page screen image of the Recapp app.

Sometimes, innovation is all about taking what exists and making it easier to use. That’s the key ingredient in Recapp, a simple but powerful sports news reading app that curates top sports content by team and sport and organizes it for easy-to-find consumption.

Available free now for the iPhone, Recapp is the brainchild of David Chen, a self-proclaimed sports-obsessed fan who was frustrated by having to visit multiple web sites a day to get his fill of news on his favorite teams. Like many fans, Chen has a diverse plate of devotions — a Dallas native who got his MBA from Cornell, Chen follows the Mavs and the Big Red, which often requires multiple sources to satisfy his news jones.

“I wondered why there wasn’t a site that brought all the news I wanted to read in one place,” said Chen in a phone interview last week. Unable to find one, Chen enlisted the help of two friends — Tyler Smith and Chase Johnson, who are the company’s co-founders and “programming whizzes” — and after about a year of work, Recapp recently went live in the iTunes store. There is no Android version of the app yet, but Chen said he hopes to build one later in the year.

While it doesn’t break any new technical ground, Recapp does fans a big favor simply by acting as a proxy to find the top professionaly produced content for all the major U.S. professional sports, as well as major college teams. Fans can pick which teams or sports they want to follow, and the Recapp app will deliver a steady stream of game stories and opinions.

Much like Bleacher Report’s Team Stream app Recapp replaces the often tedious searching process with a streamlined compilation of not just one media source’s stories but instead the best of the best. Mobile Sports Report senior editor Greg Quick took a quick look at the app and liked its speed of story delivery, and its focus on top-site content.

“Our focus is on quality [stories],” said Chen. “If you just search for sports info half of what you get is garbage. We want to give true fans the info they want.”

While the app is in its early stages and doesn’t have much in the way of bells and whistles, Chen hopes to add more social and perhaps commenting features in the near future. “We eventually want fans to connect, and comment,” Chen said. Right now the app is also advertising-free, but Chen said that after building some more audience traction Recapp will reach out to brands to see if there is value in bringing advertising messages closer to fans.

Recapp screen shot of a New York Yankees news feed

The 2012 NFL Draft is in the Books-Did Your Team Win or Lose?

There is a nice piece in Sports Illustrated by Richard Deitsch that quite clearly shows the difference between ESPN and the NFL Network’s approach to covering last weekend’s NFL draft. It breaks down to one with a relatively minimalist approach (ESPN) and the other went with ‘kitchen sink” approach.

Of course over the course of three days the cast of characters changed a bit and the dynamics of the broadcasts changed with them. I tend to favor a smaller group because I find I learn more and hear more interesting bits of information when there are fewer people vying to be heard.

An interesting side note is that while the two networks had a gentleman’s agreement not to tip picks prior to the announcements, but that did not include Twitter. While the reporters for the respective networks did not tweet all of the picks, they did so on a number of them.

We found that following twitter was much better than following the broadcasts for the most part, not only because the information came fast and furious, but also you could much more easily cut out the noise from announcers filling air time.

There are of course a number of post draft appraisals available for fans to peruse but it is worth listing a few here. Bleacher Report did a nice job, I believe in rating the draft team by team. USA Today had very different impressions on a number of teams compared to the BR ratings so it is interesting to see why they differed and where they agreed.

In the past I have read a few, not from BR, that seemed to give everybody an A or B grade. Sorry, I don’t buy it. Some picks are just strange, and some teams seem like they went too far in breaking from group thinking. Of course it is hard to tell until a few years have gone by, for the most part, but you can make some informed statements based on what is already know about the players, and the teams they are going to.

For a general view of the draft I could point you back to Sports Illustrated and Peter King’s Monday Morning QB column where he talks about how there were a great many stories in the NFL draft. I would have never guessed. As a counterpoint you could always read Kissing Suzy Kolber’s rude interpretation of Peter King’s column instead.

I usually watch the draft switching between the two networks while looking at twitter. A buddy has two TVs going, using his computer to watch his favorite team’s war room and watching twitter feeds on his phone while scratching names off a list he keeps. Wonder what he will do until next year? Well now that the draft is over how long until training camp officially opens?