The NCAA Tournament On Demand
CBS Sports, Turner Sports partner to offer full tournament experience online.
by Kyle Stack / @KyleStack
A television is no longer necessary to experience March Madness. Reporters in New York City got a first-hand look Wednesday at the viewing experience Turner Sports and CBS Sports will provide for fans of the NCAA Tournament this month. College basketball fans will be able to engulf themselves in all the tournament’s glory not only by TV, but through their computers, iPhones, iPod Touches and even their iPads — for free.
Turner Sports and CBS Sports agreed to a 14-year partnership last year to broadcast NCAA Tournament games live across their various TV network and online platforms. The agreement, which begins this year and runs through 2024, means tournament viewers will be able to catch every game of the 68-team tournament on CBS and three of Turner’s national networks — TNT, TBS and truTV. In case fans want to add to their TV experience by tracking games online, they can access March Madness on Demand (MMOD) by visiting mmod/ncaa.com.
The presentation to reporters on Wednesday outlined the options available to online users in four parts: enhanced viewing, a digital guide to TV viewing, the Game Center view and an expansion to more platforms.
Once the tournament starts March 15, viewers can access MMOD for a full-screen experience that incorporates a drop-down scoreboard of the games being played and the ones on tap. The scoreboard leads into possibly the most critical part of CBS and Turner’s revamp of MMOD, which was initially introduced by CBS as a $15 subscription service in 2003. There will be a clear explanation throughout the on-demand product of the network on which each game will appear.
The drop-down scoreboard, schedule and live bracket will each contain the logo of the network broadcasting each game. The same goes for the live scoreboard that will appear at the top of the screen of each game’s broadcast. Fans unsure of how to locate CBS, TNT, TBS and truTV on their local TV service will have the option of finding it on MMOD. The My Channels application will allow viewers to list their zip code and TV service, which will then tell that person the number of each channel on the broadcaster’s system. MMOD visitors can also create customized brackets with friends.
Michael Adamson, Vice President of New Products and Services for Turner Sports, explained that Turner and CBS worked with national services and database companies to obtain the appropriate cable service information to serve viewers. “Figuring out where we were going to get the data from was the toughest part,” Adamson said.
Another new component of MMOD is The Coke Zero March Madness Social Arena, which is a fancy name for what will be a social media wall. Although the wall looks like a Twitter stream, the plan is for the yet-to-be-determined wall hosts to incorporate fan comments from Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, the blogosphere and other social media platforms.
The wall will run 24 hours per day throughout the tournament with the social hosts posting news, trends and opinions from fans and TBS and CBS courtside reporters.
“The more news-y, the more pop culture-y these events become, those tend to become what people talk the most about,” Adamson said. He noted less emphasis will be placed on someone commenting on how great a play is; they’re interested more by off-the-cuff comments fans and courtside reporters have on a player’s personality, the way he plays and obscure game observations.
Fans will also have the ability to activate Facebook’s “like” system in order to show support for teams during each round. “Likes” can be dispersed through MMOD’s traditional bracket page and on game comments and highlight packages.
The Game Center View is also a valuable resource for viewers with in-game highlights, box scores, team leaders, key stats and a Lead Tracker, which uses a chart to show a game’s progression. Adamson emphasized Lead Tracker might be the facet of MMOD which surprises fans most with its usefulness.
CBS and Turner executives were enthusiastic at the possibilities of increased viewing by having applications available to iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad users. At a March 2 press conference to formally present the company’s iPad 2, Apple CEO Steve Jobs revealed that more than 100 million iPhones have been sold since the phone debuted in June 2007. More than 15 million iPads have been sold since the tablet’s debut in April 2010. The website MacRumors.com estimated in September 2010 that more than 45 million iPod Touches had been sold up to that point.
The increasing amount of ways to access MMOD will help raise the site visits CBS had built since 2003. By 2005, the last year CBSSports.com charged for MMOD service, roughly 20,000 users purchased the product. That number spiked to 1.3 million users once it was changed to a free service in 2006.
Last year, CBSSports.com’s MMOD service welcomed 8.3 million unique visitors who spent over 11.7 million hours streaming live video and audio. CBS Sports and Turner Sports executives declined comment on projections for site activity during this year’s tournament. Yet this year’s tournament will be all the more accessible to viewers since every game will be broadcasted live on one of four television networks provided by CBS and Turner. The online components to MMOD should ensure that fans can engage in the entire NCAA Tournament experience even if they choose to do so on mobile products rather than through television.
All images provided by CBS Sports/Turner Sports.