March Madness Becomes a Sports-Tech Showcase

Last week’s tipoff of March Madness brought on a mad rush of new apps and services from pay TV providers, ad-tech vendors and programmers that are tailored for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

On the streaming front, NCAA March Madness Live, an app for the tourney developed in partnership by the NCAA, Turner Sports and CBS Sports, is available across what they say is a record 12 platforms.

Those lending support this year include the Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick, Apple TV, Roku players and Roku TVs, Amazon Fire tablets, iOS and Android mobile devices, Windows handsets, Web browsers, and even the Apple Watch. Additionally, viewers can access all games broadcast on CBS “with no registration required” on desktops as well as smartphones and tablets. Live streams will also be offered on digital platforms from TBS, TNT, truTV and CBS, as well as via participating TV provider websites and apps.

The NCAA March Madness Live app for the Apple TV offers a split-screen feature that lets users stream two live games at the same time.

Dish Network is literally doubling that with last week’s debut of “Sports Bar Mode,” a feature for its new 4K-capable Hopper 3 DVR that divides the TV screen into quadrants, with each displaying a different live TV program. That feature, also called “multiview” and offered on any Hopper 3 that’s connected to a 4K or HD set, decodes four streams, stitches them together and displays them simultaneously. The feature takes advantage of the tuner-rich Hopper 3, which sports 16 of them.

Comcast is also focusing on the big screen with the debut of a basketball “Extras” for its X1 Sports app that syncs up stats with live programming and relies on tech from OneTwoSee, the Philadelphia-based startup that Comcast acquired earlier this month.

The interactive app provides in-game, team-by-team stats such as steals, rebounds and foul counts, as well as a view of the updated tournament bracket. Post-game, the app feeds a recap of the matchup, including by-quarter scores and the “Xfinity Player of the Game.”

For the tourney’s Final Four round, the app will also let users pull up full-team rosters and detailed individual player stats, including shooting percentages by court location.

The tourney also created an opening for media data specialist 4C to take the wraps off Sports Sync, a platform that enables brands and other partners to deliver ads on social networks including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram in concert with a specific live sports moment, such as a slam dunk or a game-changing three-point shot.

Several brands have signed on for Sports Sync for March Madness, 4C said, but the company wasn’t at liberty yet to name them. 4C also has built a version of its platform that triggers digital ads around political TV spots, as well as shifts in the weather.

Not all ad inventory is created equal, according to Aaron Goldman, 4C’s chief marketing officer. 4C’s approach is about delivering an ad message “when attentions are heightened,” he said.

— Jeff Baumgartner

‘Dirty Charades’ Behind the Scenes of ‘Skin Wars'

 Body-painting competition Skin Wars is GSN’s top original series, and behind the scenes it often takes hours for the painters to create their masterpieces on their nearly naked human canvases.

Host Rebecca Romijn and sejudge RuPaul Charles lamented during the network’s March 8 upfront presentation that episodes could take as long as 14 hours to tape as they literally and painstakingly watched paint dry.

They played games to pass the time, such as “Dirty Charades.” It’s like the traditional pantomime guessing game, but as Charles succinctly described, “It was just dirty.”

Michael Levitt said it was often di_ cult to begin shooting after several rounds of charades, because the host couldn’t stop laughing at the risqué gamesmanship.

Romijn quipped that the game’s content and gestures probably wouldn’t be suitable for air. “I don’t think you’re going to see our game on GSN anytime soon.”

— R. Thomas Umstead