Turner's Johnson Has an NCAA March Madness Live Dream

Mark Johnson has a vision in mind for the Final Four of the 2014 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship.

While the vice president of business operations at Turner Sports didn’t reveal his selections for the national semifinals matchups from AT&T Stadium in North Texas, he did paint what he hopes will be a familiar scenario across American households on April 5 for NCAA March Madness Live.

Johnson is looking for large-screen TVs to be trained on TBS’s main telecast on their large-screen television set, but college basketball fans will turn to their tablets and smartphones to screen the TNT and truTV simulcasts  of the local Final Four Teamcasts-- there will be separate productions with their own pregame and halftime segments, camera angles and game calls from local radio or cable crews for the participating schools -- on the tourney's digital destination.

“That’s our dream,” he said. “We’re going to get four additional streams with the Teamcasts.”

If fan fervor materializes in that manner, it could provide a bookend spike in usage for NCAA March Madness Live, which simulcasts all 67 of the tourney’s games and more than 150 hours of live-stream action to authenticated TV Everywhere subscribers to TBS, TNT and truTV. The contests on CBS do not require verification.

Typically, NCAA March Madness Live, which is produced by Turner Sports in conjunction with the NCAA and CBS Sports, derives a major portion of its traffic from the second-round of the event. This year, those games unfold on Thursday March 20 and Friday March 21, following the tourney’s tipoff with the First Four on March 18-19 on truTV and on the digital destination.

“Those two days, the Thursday and Friday, when everybody’s at work, remain a major driver,” Johnson said. “The desktop is the primary outlet at the outset.”

After that, digital consumption spreads to other devices. “You have the smartphone on Saturday when you’re at the kids soccer match,” he said. “And on Sunday you might have the game on TV, and you pull out the tablet to also watch the other game.”

Last year, the first in which TVE Everything registration was in the mix, NCAA March Madness Live garnered a record 49 million live video streams across computers, tablets and mobile phones, a 168% jump from 2012. That translated into more 14 million hours of live video consumed –another record.

The NCAA March Madness Live mobile app for the 2013 tourney attracted 3.4 million unique visitors who watched live video, 109% amelioration from the 1.6 million for the 2012 event.

Throughout the tournament, 105 minutes of live video was consumed per user on broadband – an increase of 8% compared with the 2012 event. Moreover, 70 minutes of video was viewed per user on mobile tablets and smartphones, a 66% jump.

“Mobile consumption continues to grow,” said Johnson, who stopped short of making user and streaming predictions for 2014.

However, he did emphasize that with Americans becoming increasingly comfortable with the authentication process to watch sports and entertainment fare in general, and NCAA March Madness Live in particular, there should be an uptick in users, who can enter the platform from more points of entry and on more devices than ever before. 

This year, NCAA March Madness Live will launch from www.ncaa.com/marchmadness, www.CBSSports.com, www.bleacherreport.com, the App Store, Google Play and the Windows Store. Additionally, fans can watch games via live streaming on TNT, TBS and truTV’s digital platforms, as well as on the participating TV provider websites.

Expanding its device roster, NCAA March Madness Live is now available on the Amazon Appstore for Android and Kindle Fire tablets for the first time, along with the previously announced iPhone, iPad, Android 4.0+ operating system, Windows 8.1 and the Windows Phone 8 operating system.

Google is also teaming with the NCAA, Turner Sports and CBS Sports through a March Madness destination site, as well as first-of-its kind fan access through Google+ Hangouts, featuring the two programmers' on-air talent. The campaign begins with Selection Sunday, March 16 at www.google.com/trends/NCAAMarchMadness. From there, sports fans can discover all the NCAA March Madness digital products through Google, notably NCAA March Madness Live, the Capital One March Madness NCAA Bracket Challenge, the NCAA On Demand YouTube channel and the NCAA March Madness Google+ page.

Additionally, there will be a number of NCAA March Madness related Google+ Hangouts, enabling fans to interact with Turner Sports and CBS Sports commentators launching from NCAA.com/hangouts or the NCAA March Madness Google+ page, including a Selection Sunday conversation featuring Turner Sports studio host Matt Winer and NCA vice president of men's basketball Dan Gavitt. Additional hangouts are planned leading into the Final Four.

No matter how they get to NCAA March Madness Live, Johnson said fans will enjoy an enhanced experience, with better video highlights, full-game replays and excitement alerts, as well as fan-favorite elements, notably live game scoring, real-time championship brackets, personal channel lineup features, real-time game alerts for their favorite school and the popular “Boss Button.” Fans will have direct access to live radio broadcasts, courtesy of Westwood One, for all 67 games across the collection of digital products.

From an advertising perspective, NCAA March Madness Live will have three co-presenting sponsors: NCAA Corporate Champions AT&T, Capital One and Coke Zero.

Moreover, Buick, Capital One and Coke Zero will sponsor the NCAA March Madness Live App for iPhone and iPad, while AT&T, Infiniti and LG Electronics USA will support the Android apps. AT&T will also serve as presenting sponsor for the Windows app. Buick, Infiniti and LG Electronics are NCAA Corporate Partners.

Johnson said fans can expect “better formatting for smart phones” compared to last year when much of the imaging was designed for projection on larger tablet screens.

Turner Sports will also function more as a social media editor with the 2014 tournament because, as Johnson said, “the volume is so great.” That means curating the best posts from Twitter and Instagram and this year for the first time, Vine. There will be a Twitter map indicating the states from where the comments are emanating, hot topics and bubbles showcasing key words.

"We want to filter the noise, and lead users to a much better social discussion around the tournament,” said Johnson.