March Madness viewing: More digital options, plus some virtual reality

MML_iPhone_01-WatchRemember when college basketball tournament season only had a small slice of games available online? Or when you had to pay extra to watch online? It wasn’t that long ago. Thankfully though the future is here now and for 2016 the college hoops postseason has even more ways to watch games mobile or online, including one option to watch games via virtual reality programming.

Like last year, if you have a qualifying cable contract, you are basically covered and should be able to watch all the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament games live, on whichever platform you want. The best way to start is to head to the NCAA’s March Madness home page, where you should be able to find any and all information on devices, apps and other avenues to streaming coverage. According to Turner Sports, the NCAA and CBS Sports the games will be available live on 12 different platforms, including Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Roku players and Roku TV models. The new March Madness Live app isn’t avalable until Thursday, so check back soon for the go-to app for everything March Madness.

Also like last year, you should be able to watch a few minutes of the first game you see without having to log in — great if you are just trying to catch a buzzer beater. The games of course will be available on regular TV, and the March Madness home page has what may be a great time saver, a widget that helps you find those obscure cable channels other than CBS or TNT where the games might be on. Since we’ve just moved, MSR’s NCAA viewing team might make good use of the Zip Code-powered channel finder.

Screen Shot 2016-03-08 at 12.14.34 PMEven if you don’t have a cable contract you can still watch a lot of games that are streamed online; games broadcast on CBS will be available for no charge on desktop, mobile and tablet platforms, while games broadcast on the other channels (TNT, TBS, truTV and local channels) should be available on those providers’ websites. Again, if you get stuck or lost just defaulting back to the March Madness home page should give you a path to whatever game it is you’re looking for.

Big East tourney available in VR

If you have a NextVR platform you will be able to watch the 2016 Big East tournament (it starts Thursday, March 10) thanks to a partnership between FOX Sports and NextVR. We’re not VR-savvy here at MSR headquarters yet but with seven games and 15 hours of programming scheduled this might be a cool treat for VR fans. NextVR has an instruction page on how to watch the games in VR; if anyone tries this out, send us an email with a report on how it worked (or didn’t) and we’ll let everyone else know.

Also, don’t forget — this year for the first time the NCAA Men’s Championship game, scheduled for Monday, April 4, will be on TBS, NOT on CBS, the first time the champs game has been only on cable. And, there will be streaming options as well during Final Four weekend, according to the official announcement:

For the NCAA Final Four National Semifinals on Saturday, April 2, from Houston, NCAA March Madness Live will provide three distinct live video streams of both games to provide unprecedented viewing options for fans – live streaming of the traditional game coverage provided on TBS, along with “Team Stream by Bleacher Report” coverage or team-specific presentations offered via TNT and truTV. This year’s NCAA Tournament will include the National Championship airing on TBS, the first time the championship has ever been televised on cable television.

TV Everywhere drives strong growth in March Madness viewership

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The push to entice digital viewers to follow this year’s NCAA Basketball tournament was a resounding success for NCAA.com and Turner Sports as their NCAA March Madness Live push underwent continued growth in a year when the championship game was down a bit from the previous year on broadcast television.

The broadcasting of the championship game saw a 10% decline in viewership on television. However the match between Kentucky and Connecticut generated two million live video streams, up 30% when compared with last year’s championship game.

The digital streaming effort, which includes its TV Everywhere initiative, maintained strong support from the digital space even in the face of a number of the better know and more popular schools being eliminated early in the tournament this year.

It set a new record for video consumption, as it has in the past few years, with this year’s event with a 42% increase in live video streaming over last year to bring the collective total over all platforms to 69.7 million live video streams. NCAA March Madness Live registered 15 million hours of live video streaming, a new high and up 7% from 2013.

The mobile space, where tablets and smartphones are still undergoing strong growth themselves, experienced very strong growth with an increase of 71% in live streams over the course of the tournament, and the total hours grew by 38% over last year.

In addition to more viewers, they stayed on longer while viewing watching an average of 67% more minutes than non-registered viewers. While a user can register and watch TV Everywhere on a PC, the use of that platform as a second screen appears to be fading in favor of mobile devices. The live streams on logged-in mobile devices representing 52% of the total TV Everywhere usage for the entire tournament

The growth was in a good part helped by the variety of ways that fans could access the tournament aside from mainstream broadcast television that NCAA.com and its partners Turner Sports and CBS Sports made available. There was an option of any one of three web sites available as well as NCAA March Madness Live available via the Amazon Appstore, Apple App Store, Google Play and Windows Store. On top of all of that fans could watch games via live streaming on TNT, TBS and truTV’s digital platforms, as well as participating TV provider websites.

Turner Sports’ digital approach to March Madness a winner

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While most people I know have already seen their NCAA brackets crushed, one player is clearly winning at the tournament and that is Turner Sports and its online game-viewing policy.

According to Turner the men’s 2014 NCAA tournament has set an all-time record for online video consumption with a total of 51 million video streams accessed through the first full week of the tournament, a number that is 40% greater than what it achieved a year ago at the same point in the event.

To put the number in greater perspective, last year for the entire tournament there were a grand total of 49 million video streams accessed for the event. These numbers represent users accessing the videos from desktops or laptops as well as smartphones and tablets. Mobile (tablets and smartphones) platforms experienced the highest segment growth this year, with live streams for mobile device users up 74% over the first week of the tournament in 2013, according to Turner.

It is interesting to note that the videos were watched for 10.5 million hours, a number that witnessed only an increase by a mere 6%, showing that fans liked the ability to cherry pick the events that they watched and came in droves for them.

According to Turner Sports the top games featured some of the exciting upsets that have been a major factor in this tournament.

§ Dayton vs. Ohio State – 4,626,000 viewers
§ Mercer vs. Duke – 4,218,000
§ Harvard vs. Cincinnati – 2,767,000
§ Kentucky vs. Wichita State – 1,987,000
§ Stanford vs. New Mexico – 1,451,000

Not surprisingly the broadcast side of the business also had a record setting first week. The four networks that carried the games, TBS, truTV, CBS and TNT reported that they had the best first week in the 23 years that they have been carrying the tournament. It is averaging 9,277,000, up 4% from last year.

Friday Grab Bag: Where is the MLS TV deal?

For those of you who managed to miss it the Major League Soccer season started recently and its broadcast contract, which many had expected to be finalized sometime last winter, is still unfinished business.

Awful Announcing does a good job pointing out the issues, which have to do with how each side perceives itself. An interesting note showing the increasing popularity of the sport is that the average MLS attendance is greater than the NBA or NHL’s.

Android flaws could make upgrades a danger
System updates are a fact of life for most mobile phone users and a recent report from researchers at the System Security Lab at Indiana University and Microsoft have found a vulnerability that could enable hackers to take over Android systems.

It is not a real threat as they did a proof of concept test only but the threat would be in the form of an app that waits for a system update and then takes gains access for privileges that it had not had previously. Interestingly it only works if you have a fairly old version of Android running.

FIFA Exec paid millions for votes
If you ever wondered how sun-baked Qatar managed to win approval to host the World Cup during its summer this story might help explain it: FIFA executive Jack Warner appears to have made millions off of the deal.

According to a piece in the Telegraph a Quatari company paid Warner millions after the country won the vote. The Big Lead has a list of his apparent transgressions over the past few years that shows a long history of shady dealings.

NBA pondering new TV deal
MLS is not the only sport that is taking its time in finalizing its next broadcast deal as the NBA is also taking a leisurely approach on its current round of negotiations. However the NBA is in a much stronger position.

According to the Sports Business Daily there are a number of interesting options being considered at this time including adding an additional broadcasting partner, bringing its digital rights in-house and moving NBA on TNT off of Thursday night. It looks like big changes are in the works.

Drones can read Wi-Fi messages?

A report in the International Business Times is saying that you should turn off your smartphone’s Wi-Fi because drones that are flying overhead can monitor the conversation, using a pretty simple trick that I think many of us would fall for.

A drone overhead could present itself as a free Wi-Fi network, something that phones are constantly looking for. Then if a user connects it can intercept traffic. Boy would they be bored with reading my stuff.

Love baseball and need a date? MLB has you covered!
Major League Baseball has joined forces with online dating site Match.com to create club-focused singles pages, because apparently there was a need for this. I am not kidding it seems that some rabid fans, say Yankee fans, whose first question is to ask “Who hates the Red Sox?” [editor’s note: insert joke for “getting to first base” here.]

It will be interesting to see how this works; maybe MLB could do the same for the Dungeons and Dragons crowd, or even a dating site set up for stats nerds, which is almost the same as the D&D group.

Turner, March Madness app ready for NCAA tournament

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March Madness, one of the sports world’s iconic events is on the horizon and no doubt fans are already plotting out strategies to get out of the office or school to watch their favorite team attempt to advance in its bracket. However thanks to Turner Sports there is an alternative.

It has released NCAA March Madness Live, an app that will provide portable access to all of the games in the tournament, with a total of 150 hours available during the event. Even better the app will now be supported by three platforms, Apple’s iOS, Android and for the first time Microsoft as well. Now fans can use a smartphone or tablet as a second screen if at a bar or as a primary device if at work.

To use the app a fan and watch all of the matchups that will be broadcast on TNT, TBS, and truTV a fan needs to log in with their TV service provider information. Games will also be available online at various sites, including This year, NCAA March Madness Live will launch from more platforms than ever before including the NCAA March Madness page, CBS Sports, and Bleacher Report. There is no registration required for games on CBS. The app will also provide a temporary preview period giving fans access to live game streaming before login is required.

The app, Developed in partnership with the NCAA, Turner Sports and CBS Sports is a follow up to previous years’ offerings but it has made several major enhancements to the app since last year, aside from the Microsoft support.

Of importance to the fans of bracketology and seeing if they are winning in their office pool the app has a new interface that has been designed for work with the smaller screens that smartphones feature as well with the slightly larger screens on tablets. It allows users to go directly from this feature to a live game and includes broadcast times and schedules. It also has additional view modes for brackets.

The heart of the app might be the GameCenter, one of the features that has been redesigned. It is the central [point to find which games are currently live streaming as well as pre-game matchup analysis, live in-game stats, key social moments and fan chat.

To complement the enhanced features in the bracket area there is the almost obligatory bracket for fans, this one entitled Capitol One NCAA March Madness Bracket Challenge. The app developers have enhanced its social media functionality as well as supporting computers as well as smartphones and tablets. It allows for the formation of groups, sharing brackets and chat via Facebook.

There is also a general chat forum called the Coke Zero NCAA March Madness Social Arena that enables fans t converse about games and other events as well as follow game tweets, post and view Instagram photos and Vine videos. Fans can participate in the social commentary by using the hashtag #marchmadness.

Understanding that some fans might want to set up schedules to just see specific matchups the app now includes a TV Schedule that helps with planning. This feature can be accessed from various other features such as game schedule or bracket and provides the round, date, time and network for each game. Also new this year is a Tournament News feature that provides news and updates as well as highlights, recaps and additional information each day.

Following the broadcasting of all of the just concluded Winter Olympic events online by NBC hopefully this is the wave of the future. While MLB enables fans to watch a huge number of games either online or on their television via a subscription model the NBA and NFL trail well behind it.

Broadcast and digital video combine for huge NBA All-Star weekend

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Starting tonight there will be four days and nights filled with a variety of activities related to the NBA All-Star game that will be played on Monday night including features and broadcasts on live television, NBA.com and NBA Mobile.

While the actual game and some of the key events will only be available via broadcast television there are a number of features that will be available for the digital viewer as well as specials that will be made available on the NBA’s NBA TV channel. This will total an estimated 140 hours of all star coverage.

Social Media
Featured on the NBA.com home page, fans can follow tweets from NBA players and insiders, share user-generated video, check which topics and content are trending in real time and get behind-the-scenes video from players and celebrities.

Fans will be able to vote for both the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge MVP and Kia NBA All-Star MVP via online, mobile web, SMS text messaging, Twitter and via the NBA Game Time app. I wonder how many will vote like they are in Chicago?

The NBA Mobile app is being used as primarily a schedule and event tracker. There will be highlights from different events as well as some live coverage but no real streaming events to mobile users. All of the content that would fit nicely for a mobile user has mostly been designated for NBA TV. Still it provides users with the All-Star Dashboard that is basically a one stop site for that is happening with live press events, live video and social feeds.

It is more valuable if you are attending because the Events Section also includes including event information, ticket links, venue maps, directions, video, live scoring and social feeds from all of the individual events.

NBA TV
The league appears dedicated to highlighting its own channel and has a top lineup for NBA TV including a big block of original programming on Monday that will be highlighted by an interview with LeBron James, another with Oscar Robertson and an All-Star edition of Open Court: The Dunk In Depth and Defined.

However the festivities start tonight on the channel with a Slam Dunk-A-Thon that will show all of the Slam Dunk contests including the first held, during the days of the ABA in 1976. Among the events that will be broadcast on Friday there will be highlights and an inside look at the league’s rising stars. There will also be coverage of the media day as well as exclusive coverage of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Announcement.

The weekend sees a great deal more broadcasting on NBA TV and you can go here for the full schedule but some of the interesting items are the 2013 NBA D-League All-Star game and the new NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s press conference. There will also be pre- and post game coverage on Sunday.