News

Method to the Madness: All Screens, All the Time

3/17/2013 8:00 PM Eastern

Executives with Turner Sports and CBS Sports believe the three-pointer of more devices, a larger TV Everywhere universe and consumers’ increased comfort level with the authentication process will drive “NCAA March Madness” Live growth during the upcoming college basketball tournament that tips off on March 19.

Produced by Turner Sports, NCAA March Madness Live will offer pay TV subscribers free streaming of the 67 games comprising the 2013 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship tournament across myriad online, mobile and tablet devices. Also featuring social and interactive components, it is available online via ncaa.com/marchmadness, CBSSports.com and www.bleacherreport.com, along with Google Play and Apple’s App Store.

Turner officials said its TV Everywhere universe now exceeds 80 million households, up from 75 million at this time in 2012. That total does not include Time Warner Cable video subscribers. Turner, which has been unable to reach a long-term TV Everywhere deal with TWC, has inked an “interim solution” with the provider that will enable the No. 2 MSO’s subs to stream games — but no other programming — during the tourney.

Earlier this month, Turner signed a comprehensive carriage deal with the National Cable Television Cooperative that includes TV Everywhere rights, enabling members to stream March Madness Live. A spokesman on March 19 said that 84 members will offer March Madness Live via Clearleap’s or the group’s own WTVE platform.

Turner’s current TV Everywhere partners include Comcast, Verizon Communications, Dish Network, Cox Communications, AT&T, DirecTV, Cablevision Systems, Charter Communications, Suddenlink Communications, Mediacom Communications, WideOpenWest, Bend Broadband, Atlantic Broadband and Cable One.

Mark Johnson, Turner Sports vice president of business operations said the digital play this year includes smartphones and tablets running on the Android 4.0+ operating system, as well as Apple’s iPhone5 and iPad mini. And thanks to NBCUniversal’s expansive multiplatform coverage of the 2012 London Olympics and entertainment websites, consumers are now attuned to authentication, he said.

In 2012, March Madness Live on NCAA.com, CBSSports.com, SI.com, truTV.com, TNT.tv and TBS.com collectively delivered more than 220 million visits across online and mobile platforms, an 11% increase from 198 million in 2011, according to Turner officials.

Users will gain access to the action on TNT, TBS and truTV on their preferred digital device via logging in with their TV service-provider information, while all CBS games will be accessible sans registration requirements. Those who are not pay TV subscribers will be able to check out up to four hours of live game streaming without viewer registration.

At the media event, Johnson showed a screen on his laptop that housed a multitude of provider logos, where users could click on their cable or satellite company, register and “get access to content right there. That alone will increase usage,” said Johnson. “It’s more seamless and interactive for the user.”

On the ad front, March Madness Live is sold out and expected to generate $70 million, up from $60 million in 2012. In the traditional- TV arena, CBS and Turner could push Turner’s scheduled presentation of the Final Four to 2014 from 2016, resulting in another major sports title moving from the broadcast to the cable side of the TV dial.

March