With more devices in play and consumers’ becoming increasingly accustomed to the authentication process, Mark Johnson believes March Madness Live is poised for growth with its upcoming presentation of the college basketball tournament.
Johnson, Turner Sports vice president of business operations, said in prepping for the digital play for the 2013 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship, the company has been focused on expanding its Android base, which this year includes smart phones and tablets running on the Android 4.0+ operating system, as well as iPhone5 and iPad mini.
“We added Android handsets last year, and have expanded the number of handsets and added Android tablets. Android continues to grow. IOS and Android are the two dominant [operating systems],” said Johnson, noting that Turner has elected not to support Blackberry and Window-based devices. “We looked at [them], but there isn’t enough penetration there currently.”
Johnson also said that sports fans, in particular, through NBCUniversal’s expansive multiplatform coverage of the 2012 London Olympics and consumers, in general, via entertainment websites are more attuned to the authentication process.
“With more people using more devices and becoming comfortable with authentication, we’ll continue to grow,” said Johnson in an interview at CBS and Turner's Media Day for the tournament in Manhattan on March 11.
In 2012, NCAA.com/March Madness Live, CBSSports.com, SI.com, TruTV.com, TNT.tv and TBS.com delivered over 220 million visits across online and mobile platforms from March 11 through national championship game on April 2, which was won by Kentucky over Kansas. That marked an 11% increase from 198 million in 2011, according to Turner officials.
March Madness Live, produced by Turner Sports, will offer free streaming of the 67 games comprising the tournament. Users will gain access to all games on TNT, TBS and TruTV on their preferred digital device by logging in with their TV service provider information, while all games on broadcast teammate CBS 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 on NCAA March Madness Live, without viewer registration.
During the 2012 tourney, authentication was also in play, but non-pay TV subscribers could gain broadband or mobile access to all of the game action for a fee.
“We put a $3.99 fee on it to apply the concept of TV Everywhere. We couldn’t give [the video stream of the games] away for free, because it would have undermined the authenticated model for distributors,” said Johnson. “However, not all the providers were stitched in, so we offered the $3.99 option; it wasn’t about producing revenues.”
Last year, Turner Sports built video players for its trio of networks airing the tournament and for cable and satellite providers. “This year, we have stitched things into March Madness Live. Users come right to it and don’t have to worry about going to TNT’s or Comcast’s website and then say, ‘How do I authenticate?’ That’s a huge change, which is similar to the Olympics and other products.”
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.”
Much of the action will occur on March 21 and 22. “Broadband connections at work on that first Thursday and Friday are still huge for us. On those two days, we’ll do forty to fifty percent of our streams,” said Johnson, noting that’s been a consistent ratio over the years.
Whereas broadband dominates the aforementioned days, when it comes to weekends March Madness Live on mobile is the fashion, as people are “running to the mall, or their kids’ soccer practice. They are checking the scores, looking at streams. Mobile has become the weekend device,” said Johnson.