Mobile viewership soars in setting March Madness record


Mobile digital viewers are making their collective strength known during the current NCAA tournament by blowing away last year’s then record setting totals, and doing so with the championship weekend still ahead.

The numbers of hours of live video consumed is up only slightly from last year but the amount of live video streams that fans are viewing has tremendously increased as users are voting with their tablets, computers and smartphones that streaming video is a viable delivery format for fans.

The breakdown for the tournament through its second week shows that NCAA March Madness Live has seen 13.5 million hours of video watched, a 7% increase over last year’s 12.6 million at this point in the event. That video is comprised of 64 million live video streams over that time period, a 40% increase from last year’s 45 million. To put it in a clearer context last year for the entire tournament there was a total of 49 million videos streamed.

The role of mobile usage in driving up these numbers is obvious. Simply counting the mobile portion of the total streaming viewership shows that smartphones and tablet usage saw a 71% increase over the same two weeks last year with live streaming hours on those two platforms increasing by 38% over the same span a year earlier.

Of course in terms of percentages the growth appears to be leveling off since in 2013 the growth rate for live video streams was 145% over 2012 and the number of hours was up 201% from 2012, but it shows that strong growth is still occurring and is likely to maintain a strong pace going forward.

According to video delivery technology firm Ooyala the amount of minutes video minutes that have been viewed on tablets and smartphones has grown 719% in the last two years and that sports fans spent 62% of the time viewing videos longer than 10 minutes. It estimates that mobile viewership will encompass half of all video viewed by 2016.

Two Final Four Apps Launched and Turner Sports are launching a pair of event-based apps to take advantage of the interest in the Men’s and Women’s Final Four tournaments this weekend available for Android and Apple mobile devices.

The two apps, NCAA Final Four North Texas app presented by AT&T and Women’s Final Four Nashville will serve fans at the events as well as those that will be following them remotely. For fans in the two towns where the games will be played the app can serve as a guide to the city and event with information such as schedule information, interactive maps, tickets, free Wi-Fi locations in the cities, news, and social media features.

The Men’s app appears to be the more feature rich and has a number of events such as AT&T Final Four Photo Hunt- a scavenger hunt around North Texas, the Coke Zero NCAA Social Arena. Both have an interactive map, the ability to buy tickets and merchandise and a daily events schedule.

MLB unveils analytic player tracking system


Major league Baseball’s Advanced Media (MLBAM) used last week’s MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston as the platform to showcase a new analytics system that will track every play on the field and track a number of factors that in the past were only difficult to properly analyze.

The goal of the program is to provide the tools that will enable a better evaluation of a huge number of aspects of the game. An example MLBAM used was on a diving catch in the outfield. The system will help determine how that outcome occurred by looking at how quickly the player reacted, how direct he went to the spot from which he leaped and how fast he was going. The program will try and look at all aspects of the game including pitching, batting fielding and base running. About the only aspect that will not be under the microscope will be strategy.

This is the latest in a number of major steps the sport has taken to enable a more accurate analysis of events in the game. The first was the introduction of PITCHf/x in 2006. That technology tracks pitching including every pitch’s speed, spin, release point and location. This has been a boon to everybody from pitchers, coaches and managers, sabermetrics as well as general fans. Possibly only umpires dislike it. The addition and then expansion of instant replay is another move in this direction.

While the statistics and analytic revolution lead by Bill James has helped change how most people look at players and performance the defensive metrics have always seemed to be the ones that get the most negative feedback. This should help settle arguments on that side, but then again maybe not.

Starting this season the program will be tested at Miller Park in Milwaukee, Target Field in Minnesota and Citi Field in New York. The goal is to roll the program out at all ballparks over the course of the season so that on Opening Day 2015 all parks will be equipped with the technology that collects the data.

Ever wonder how adept your NFL team is with social media?

The news from earlier this week that the aptly named AT&T Stadium that the Dallas Cowboys play in had a record amount of Wi-Fi traffic for the teams’ season opening game , 3x over last year, is no surprise to the people at social marketing firm W20 which has rated all of the NFL stadiums for their social media prowess and the Cowboys come in second.

Now this is not just a barometer of Wi-Fi traffic by any means and judges teams on a variety of metrics, but when it is all said and done you need the hardware and networking infrastructure to have a solid approach to social media and AT&T Stadium had 25,000 Wi-Fi connections using up 1.3 million Mbytes of data.

W20 has attempted to rate all 32 NFL teams on their ability to use social media to connect with their respective fans. It used use a proprietary algorithm that indexes social engagement scores from a wide variety of social media sites including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.

Even with a spanking brand new stadium it had to be upgraded during the off season to meet expected demand. The interesting thing is that the 49ers, who play in an old, dilapidated stadium, are number one. However the 49ers, being adjacent to Silicon Valley are quite aware of the importance of social media and are in a place where all of the expertise needed to support it is near at hand.

The team’s new stadium, slated to open next season, is expected to be a state of the art wonder including its wireless infrastructure that it claims will be state of the art.

The interesting thing about the poll is how quickly teams drop in the ratings. The 49ers rate a perfect 100, yet the #5 team, the Washington Redskins, has only a 66.87 rating while the last place Cincinnati Bengals have a 26.91. I think my high school would rank higher!

The NFL is only now catching on that Wi-Fi and other associated social media apps are now a basic component in fans lives. They take pictures from tailgaters to post on Facebook and Instagram, check fantasy results, trash talk friends and a host of other activities.

However they do not just create social media data, they consume it. The teams have a captive audience that is obviously receptive to looking, reading and participating. An Instagram effort to get fans pictures posted, Facebook contests at stadiums, best Twitter commentary, all help to engage fans and are functions teams could be doing, but for the most part are not.

There are a number of other rating systems that have judged the same thing for the NFL, but as we reported earlier the league badly lags in developing and delivering the hardware, networking and apps needed to be at the forefront of the convergence of sports and media.

While the NFL is king of the hill in American sports , the league has been worried about the slow erosion in attendance. New stadiums often push old time fans to poorer seats, expensive parking, seats and food and beverages add on. A big screen at a friends house and NFL Red Zone each weekend might cost a fan just a six pack as the rice of admission. By providing access to social media and the greater world outside the NFL can in some ways make the stadium experience more enjoyable for fans and so help keep them in the parks.

Something to think about next time you are sitting at a game with 5 bars and no connection.

PCs Sales Suffer as Tablets and Smartphone Sales continue to Soar


A recent press release from market research company IDC highlights the growing importance of tablets to users seeking to stay connected with a smart device as they have become a driving force in a huge and growing market.

The latest results from IDC’s Smart Connected Device Tracker shows that overall shipments of smart connected devices grew 29.1% last year and that units edged past the 1 billion shipped level for the first time, with a value of $576.9 billion.

Tablet sales grew 78.4% compared to 2011, reaching 128 million units for the year. Smartphones continued to also see strong growth, increasing by 46.1% while the big loser were PCs, both desktop and notebooks, with drops in sales of 4.1% and 3.4% respectively.

And the forecast is rosy for tablets and not so good for the old stalwarts in the PC market. As the tablet space starts to mature sales will slow as a percentage of growth, dropping to an estimated 48.7% this year and 10.6% by 2017 while smartphones will drop to 27.2% growth this year and 9.8% in 2017. On the flip side of the coin desktop PC sales will continue to drop, seeing a 4.3% decline this year and a 1.0% in 2017 while notebook sales are expected to see some rebound to an increase of 0.9% this year and a 3.7% increase in 2017.

Part of notebooks’ issues can be seen in that tablets are now emerging as the go-to device in developing markets, but IDC estimates that users will often move onto, or add, notebook computers at some point in the future.

IDC estimates that worldwide shipments will continue to remain very strong overall and should reach 2.2 billion units and $814.3 billion by 2017.

Analysts predict worse than Expected Windows Surface Sales

Microsoft’s Surface tablets are still trying to find its footing in the market months after a steady media buildup that ended with the huge rollout event held last October. The holiday season did not bring the joy that executives might have been hoping for in terms of volume sales, according to recent analyst reports.

According to a piece in Business Insider, Brent Thill the managing director and senior analyst at UBS’s Software Group has released his latest estimation on the Surface’s sales dueling the just completed holiday quarter and the news is not good. He estimates that Microsoft sold approximately 1 million of the Surface RT devices, and that is 1 million less than he had originally estimated. . According to the piece Thill also was critical of Microsoft’s distribution effort that initially had a limited national coverage and so made it more difficult to purchase the devices.

To add insult to injury is the estimation that Apple, the company with the falling stock due to poor perceived performance, is expected to have sold 20 million iPads during that same period. Of course Apple is an established player in this space and Microsoft is trying to carve a new space for itself but that is still a telling number.

There are some issues with the Surface, some of which will be taken care of in the future and some who knows. The new operating system, Windows 8, is a big leap from previous offerings with a wide array of differences that could cause people to have second thoughts on purchasing the device. Or they could simply be waiting for the version of the Surface tablet that runs on Intel rather that ARM processors Maybe they are waiting for a larger ecosystem of apps to be available. Then again maybe consumers simply do not like the platform.

However it is not all bad news from USB. Thill said that he expects the next version of the Surface, the Surface Pro, to have a good deal more success, particularly in the business world. This platform will run on Intel processors and be compatible with existing desktop and mobile apps for Windows.

Wedge Buster Closes Series A Funding as it Launches a set of Social Media Games

Wedge Busters

While looking into RocketPlay, a company that has started developing gaming apps for social media I also started looking around for others in this field since it is relatively new and seems to offer a great deal of opportunity.

Enter Wedge Buster, a startup formed last year and based in Los Angeles that has just closed its first round of funding which will give it a $2.2 million cash infusion and which already has its site up and running.

Wedge Buster is focusing on two different but related areas, sports gaming and fantasy sports, and will be presenting its offerings on two related but different platforms, social media and mobile platforms.

The Series A funding round has some interesting investors including NFL quarterback Drew Brees, pro skater Rob Dyrdek, 37 Venture Technologies as well as some angel investors that the company said include players in the gaming and media industry. The company said that it will use the funding to speed game development, support marketing strategies and expand the distribution gaming network with media companies.

It already has a stable of games at or near a stage where they can be played by users. It has ether developed or acquired 100 games and since its launch earlier this week has a number of games already available.

Among the games is Soccer Trouble, Around the World Darts, WB Striker, WB Footy and a number of others that span everything from baseball to sharpshooting. Currently in the fantasy space it has four offerings including one where it offers a Fantasy Football Commissioner with SI and Turner. The company is now launching on Facebook and expects to soon be launching on Android and Apple phones as well in the near future.

The potential of this space appears to be huge. Earlier this year Juniper Research said that overall, games and infotainment in the mobile space is expected to become a $65 billion market by 2016 due to the growing move to mobile devices.

Wedge Buster claims that others are missing the value that social media offers, but are they? Also are the barriers to entry that high that established Internet players cannot quickly enter? I think the answer to both of these is no.

In the area of Fantasy sports look at RotoWire, which has a presence on Facebook as well as on the Internet and mobile apps as well. Its rivals also have followed suit. Then players like Zynga have entered this type of social games with its first partnership.

Others are sure to follow since this is obviously a growth area and so established players in the gaming field such as EA Sports see opportunity here. That said with its broad based approach, having so many games that can appeal to a wide, diverse audience will certainly place Wedge Buster in a good position right from the start.