NCAA College Basketball ‘March Madness’ Tournament Going Full-Court Digital

The upcoming NCAA College Basketball “March Madness” Tournament, March 17-April 8, is embracing digital distribution, including user interaction, beyond the annual event’s legacy linear television footprint.

The new “NCAA March Madness Live” live-streaming app aims to provide users with multiple ways to stay engaged with the men’s tournament, including the launch of a vertical video feed, Apple Vision Pro compatibility and the new Perfect Bracket Tracker Widget.

In addition to all games airing live on TBS, TNT and truTV pay-TV channels, “NCAA March Madness Live” will offer a limited preview period giving users access to live game streaming before login is required. Following the preview period, users will need to login with their TV service provider for uninterrupted viewing of the NCAA Tournament. Additionally, Max B/R Sports Add-On users will need to login with Max credentials to continue to stream.

This year, the app will enable users to consume a short-form feed of vertical videosThe bite-sized narratives include key game moments, trending clips and historical performances that capture the essence of March Madness moments with a left or right swipe.

Users can also follow in real-time participating schools through the “Perfect Bracket Tracker Widget.” The perfect bracket revolves picking a winner or two of every round through the final. Once the tournament starts, users can follow all the remaining perfect brackets to see how every game impacts the quest for the first-ever perfect bracket. In addition to the perfect bracket tracker, the “NCAA Bracket Challenge Game” returns for both the men and women’s tournament, where users can play against their favorite celebrities in featured groups.

“NCAA March Madness Live,” managed by TNT Sports in partnership with the NCAA and CBS Sports, is now available to download across 19 platforms, including new this year, Apple Vision Pro compatibility.  With Vision Pro, users will have access to all live games, events, exclusive video-on-demand content and more.

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“Fast Break” returns on March 21 to give whip-around coverage of each contest live and in real-time. The platform will be available when there are multiple games being played during the first two rounds of the tournament.

Games airing on TBS, TNT and truTV will also stream live on Max’s B/R Sports Add-On, while games airing on CBS will also stream live on Paramount+.

TNT Sports’ Bleacher Report and CBS Sports Digital platforms will also provide wall-to-wall coverage of the games across social. Fans can also access all games via live streaming on TBS, CBS, TNT and truTV’s digital platforms, as well as participating TV provider websites and apps.

The multi-game viewing feature returns offering users — via desktop — the ability to stream up to four games at once. Along with multi-game viewing, “excitement alerts” return instantly notifying fans of close games and upsets and taking them directly into the live game action.

Users can also stay connected to game updates directly from their phone lock screen with the live activity/update widget. A game-specific live activity/update will appear on the lock screen for both upcoming and live games, offering score updates and matchup information at-a-glance.

Tapping on the notification will take fans directly into the corresponding Game Center. New this year, the live scoreboard — available via iOS — will offer fans a way to follow scores when multiple games are being played. This feature can be accessed on the Scores page, beginning March 21.

For users on-the-go, “NCAA March Madness Live” will keep them in the know with expanded live game radio for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Live radio broadcasts are courtesy of Westwood One for all 67 games.

Serving as the hub for users to create their best brackets, Bracket IQ includes the “matchup analysis” tool, allowing users to choose from a selection of stats to guide or automate their bracket picking experience for both men’s and women’s brackets. Additionally, ahead of the Sweet 16, users can gain extra insight with “Path to the Championship.” With this tool, fans can examine every possible scenario for the bracket to get a breakdown of which team has the best possible chance of advancing.

Men’s and women’s tournament content from previous tournaments will be available across select ad-supported free streaming television channels. Available 24/7, these distinct channels will feature a compilation of the best March Madness content.

Vizio Bowing March Madness Timed Culinary Miniseries ‘3 Pointers’

Vizio March 15 announced the launch of the exclusive branded entertainment series “3 Pointers,” hosted by Casey Webb (“Man vs. Food”), and aimed at college basketball TV fans.

The four-part limited series will offer game day recipes, beverages and entertainment hacks designed to elevate the viewing experience. Produced in partnership with BetMGM, the series launches on March 17.

“[The series] captures important criteria as we evaluate what to put in front of our audiences: relevance, timeliness, and premium storytelling,”  Steve DeMain, VP of branded content and sponsorships at Vizio, said in a statement.

The content was produced by food and lifestyle veterans Turn Card Content. “3 Pointers” is available on the Vizio home screen and on demand on WatchFree+.

“We collaborated with Vizio … with the goal of creating a premium entertainment experience that taps into the excitement of March basketball,” said Matt Prevost, CRO at BetMGM.

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Lots of Streaming Options as College Basketball’s March Madness Begins

The NCAA’s annual college basketball “March Madness” tournament begins today (March 14) with 134 combined games slated through the rest of the month between the top 68 men’s and women’s teams across regional brackets nationwide, with the women’s championship game scheduled for April 2 in Dallas, followed by the men on April 3 in Houston.

CBS, TBS, TNT, TruTV and ESPN (and ESPN+) will again broadcast all of the games live, but the hardcourt action is also available across myriad streaming channels, spearheaded by Paramount+, in addition to online TV options.

At $9.99 monthly, Paramount+ Premium is the least-expensive option to stream all CBS simulcast games. March Madness is not available on the lower-priced Paramount+ tier.

Dish’s Sling TV Blue is the least expensive ($40 monthly) online TV option to access Warner Bros. Discovery-owned TNT, TBS, and truTV games. Notably, HBO Max is not streaming March Madness despite being owned by WBD. Other online TV options include DirecTV Stream, FuboTV, Hulu + Live TV, and YouTube TV.

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While NBCUniversal’s Peacock service will not offer March Madness, Comcast’s streaming platforms Xfinity Flex (available to X1 internet subscribers) and free ad-supported Xumo TV will feature a comprehensive tournament hub to help streamers find the best way to watch. Streamers will be able to view a tournament bracket, find free streaming channels and tournament news and highlights, and upgrade to a host of third-party streaming services offering live coverage of all or a portion of this year’s tournaments.

“There is no better place to experience all the excitement of March basketball than X1,” John Dixon, SVP of entertainment for Comcast Cable, said in a statement.

First Four: March 14-15
First round: March 16-17
Second round: March 18-19
Sweet 16: March 23-24
Elite Eight: March 25-26
Final Four: April 1 on CBS/Paramount+
NCAA men’s championship game: April 3 on CBS/Paramount+

Hulu, Paramount+ Help Up NCAA ‘Final Four’ Basketball Tournament Games to Highest Viewership in Five Years

The increasing distribution of live sports on subscription streaming video platforms is paying off in the ratings game. New data from Nielsen found that the April 3 “Final Four” thrilling victory by the University of North Carolina Tarheels over archrival Duke University in the semifinal of the NCAA Men’s College Basketball Tournament generated 16.3 million viewers on WarnerMedia’s TBS, TNT and TruTV cable networks, in addition to Hulu, Paramount+, Sling TV and YouTube TV streaming platforms.

That was the highest viewership for a Final Four game since 2017. In addition to contesting the first ever matchup in the men’s NCAA tournament between the legendary rivals, the game also featured retiring Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski in his final game.

The tally is expected to grow after including out-of-home viewership.

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The other semifinal game, which saw the University of Kansas beat Villanova University April 2, averaged 10.3 million viewers, which was up 21% from the 2021 Saturday matchup between Baylor University and the University of Houston with 8.1 million viewers.

Last year’s Final Four matchup between UCLA and Gonzaga University attracted almost 15 million viewers on TV and alternative platforms.

Meanwhile, the numbers still pale from the 2015 semifinal matchup between the University of Wisconsin and University of Kentucky that was viewed by more than 22 million people.

March Madness Boosts Schools’ Social Media Buzz

While there can only be one national champion in men’s and women’s NCAA college basketball, the annual March Madness tournament has made winners of the schools competing in each event.

New data from Conviva found that since day one of the tournament, the 64 dedicated women’s college basketball social media accounts have gained more than 110,000 new followers; featured 5,715 posts and videos; generated more than 3.4 million engagements; received 1.9 million views on Facebook videos; realized a 300% increase in average engagements per video across all teams compared to regular season averages; and saw a 100% increase in cross-platform engagement rate for all teams compared to regular season averages.

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On the men’s side, across all teams in the tournament, total cross-platform engagements were more than 10.6 million. Facebook was a big driver in viewership as total views across all the teams measured were 4.4 million. Throughout the tournament, the men’s basketball social accounts measured have grown in aggregate by 250,000 followers each.

Arkansas is the only team to break one million cross-platform engagements in the tournament so far, followed by Michigan and Syracuse with 867,000 and 664,000 engagements, respectively. The Sweet 16 was very sweet for Oral Roberts. Even though they lost their round of 16 bid by just two points to fellow social media titans Arkansas, Oral Roberts saw a 4332% increase in engagements (251,000) per post versus their regular season. Pre-tournament favorite Gonzaga has seen an engagement increase of 149% during the tournament compared to the regular season.

“Many fans are taking to social media to follow and support their favorite—or new favorite—teams,” read the report.

Roku Dominates ‘March Madness’ Streaming

With the 2021 NCAA College Basketball National Championship Tournament, a.k.a. March Madness, readying for the Sweet 16 elimination rounds, sports fans are increasingly streaming games via standalone media devices and connected televisions. The opening round set new records with more than a billion minutes streamed across 32 games in just two days, according to new data from Conviva.

The tournament thus far reveals an ongoing trend streaming games on the big TV screen. Historically the first day of round one sees the most viewership. This held true this year as day one netted 15% more time spent streaming than day two, according to the report.

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Streaming on television increased significantly in the first two rounds to 68% share of time spent in round one, from 48% in 2019 and just 41% in the opening days of 2018. While streaming games on the PC lost market share, the increase in TV consumption comes primarily at the expense of mobile viewing, which decreased to less than half the share held during the previous March Madness. The report attributed this to the pandemic-trend of in-home viewing and the overall, multiyear trend of increased streaming via televisions.

More than 40% of the tournament thus far has been streamed on TVs through Roku devices, followed by Amazon Fire TV (26%), Samsung TV (10%), and Apple TV with 8% share. LG TV and Xbox each tallied 4% share, with Chromecast picking up 3%. Irvine, Calif.-based Vizio, Android TV, and PlayStation lagged behind the field with under 2% share of viewing time.

Conviva reported that social media engagements per post rose an average of 164% for teams in round one as compared to the regular season. Teams tallied 3 million total cross-platform engagements over just two days in the first round of the tournament, with Wisconsin, Syracuse, and Illinois taking the top three spots for total cross-platform engagements.

March Madness often vaults unexpected teams into national view. This year it’s Oral Roberts with 15 times the number of social media engagements per post versus the regular season, and leading in cross-platform, Twitter, and Instagram engagement rates.

Hoop Players Confused by Packaged Media

SAN ANTONIO – Heading into the NCAA men’s college basketball Final Four weekend, players from competing schools were given a variety of swag items, including movie DVDs – without digital codes, of course.

Sports-themed discs such as I, Tonya, Creed, Goal! and even pre-order vouchers for Black Panther elicited confusion among some players accustomed to a world of cell phones, streaming video and social media.

“I’ll give [the discs] to my parents,” said Villanova’s Eric Paschall. “I think they have a player.”

Indeed, players from Kansas, Michigan and Loyola Chicago remembered watching DVDs as kids, or even as recently as high school. Often renting from local video stores or Blockbuster – both fading retail memories in an age of Netflix.

A NCAA representative said DVD and Blu-ray titles were given out for entertainment and sponsor marketing, while limiting liability to the student-player’s amateur status.

Following well-publicized scandals involving college athletes trading bowl jerseys and autographs for tattoos and cash – both in violation of NCAA rules, officials considered packaged media a safe bet.

“I understand the trade-in value for a DVD movie online is less than a dollar,” said the NCAA rep. “These are kids with good intentions. But, we felt reassured regardless.”

Happy April Fool’s Day