NEW YORK — Every March, the NCAA Tournament viewing experience keeps getting better.
And now, even cord-cutting sports fans and bracket fanatics alike are going to be able to fully experience watching the best event in American sports in a whole new way.
It’s amazing how much the world has changed. Think about it like this: We’ve already reached the point where the days of only being able to watch one game specific to your region seems archaic. But that’s how it used to be with the NCAAs. You’d get one game, with occasional updates out of New York from Greg Gumbel and company. If your game turned into a blowout, you were switched to another, but there was no control you had over it.
Seems so long ago, and a different world in terms of consuming sports on TV.
Now, fans have all the control. They have the ability to watch every single NCAA Tournament game live, simultaneously, and in 2016 will be provided the sleekest way yet to do it. I attended CBS and Turner’s annual NCAA Tournament media day in Manhattan on Tuesday. The companies unveiled their latest streaming services with the NCAA March Madness Live app, and they look really good.
Here’s a photo I took of how watching the NCAA Tournament will look like if you have an Apple TV.
The usage with digital platforms is skyrocketing. This was the original plan with CBS and Turner when they partnered seven years ago. Though TV obviously still runs the roost, the supplementary nature of fans wanting to watch multiple games at once on different devices has changed everything in how we experience the Big Dance.
“The lion’s share of our revenue still comes from traditional television and advertising sales,” CBS Sports president Sean McManus said. “That, in my opinion, is always going to be the lion’s share of the viewing and at least for the foreseeable future, the lion’s share of the revenue. What we’re trying to do is augment that with the various platforms. Part of it is there’s so much activity in the early rounds, people want to watch it simultaneously, and it’s happening when people aren’t necessarily in front of a television set, all day Thursday and all day Friday, when they might be at work.”
It’s simple, strong, easy to use. And it’s not just Apple TV; Roku and Amazon Fire TV are all new to the streaming experience this year. Google Chrome Cast is an option again, too.
“However a fan wants to experience and watch the Tournament, we try to make sure there is an opportunity for them to do that,” McManus said. “We’ve helped navigate what games are where. If he wants to wants to watch at a restaurant on his phone, he can. If he wants to watch one game on his television and the second game on his laptop, third game on his tablet and the fourth game on this phone. However a person wants to consume it, it’s available.”
Plus, there’s still streaming games on the CBS All Access app and www.ncaa.com/marchmadness. A plethora of viewing and streaming options. This is how we’ll consume big sports events more and more in the months and years ahead. The NCAA Tournament is the first major American sporting event that is introducing the new reality. For anyone who’s already cut the cord on their cable or satellite packages, it’s an eye-opening experience to see how fluid the games will be.
If you’re wondering on bit rate, a 720p TV will stream at 4,500 kbps, while tablets and phones will run at 1,200.
There’s a lot of elements at play here. One really good feature: There will be no spoilers. If you’re watching one game, you can switch over to another one and not have the score ruined for you as you’re doing it. This is cool, and plus, if you really want to know the score before you switch, you can get that information in a hundred other ways.
The redesign is simple and strong. Any and all games broadcast on CBS can be watched on NCAA March Madness Live without login. (The Turner, TBS and truTV games will require a login.)
You’ll also be able to check in on your bracket picks, throwback highlights to past tournaments and other video/web features. And yeah, Sunday’s Selection Show will be stream as well. Remember, it’s two hours and starts at 5:30 this year.
In total, there are 12 platform options to watch the NCAA Tournament on. Option overload paired with game overload.
“The brackets are important also,” McManus said. “The fact so many people are not basketball fans during the year are rabid basketball fans during the tournament because they have their brackets they’ve filled out. It all feeds into it. Social media is becoming much, much more important and much more prevalent. There’s a lot of social media around the tournament, obviously.”
In terms of TV, the Final Four and national championship game will air on TBS this year. CBS will get the Saturday of the Elite Eight on March 26 and TBS will air both Elite Eight games on Sunday, March 27.
Across the board, with all games streamed on NCAA March Madness Live, viewership is expected to spike yet again. The reality is more and more people are becoming more and more comfortable moving away from watching games on a cable or satellite box and using their phones, tablets or streaming devices on the big screen. On a digital level the tournament has never been more popular, and so with that it’s become a really fun, cool reality to be exposed to this classic American sporting event in a cutting-edge way.