Turner Sports, CBS Sports and the NCAA have unveiled a new tiered pricing and access model for this year’s on-demand March Madness offering. Now dubbed NCAA March Madness Live, full access to all 2012 NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball Championship games from March 7 to the April 2 finals will cost $3.99 across Web, mobile and tablet screens. Free streaming will still be available on NCAA.com, CBSSports.com and SI.com for select games. Turner will stream the games of its broadcasts via its standard online authentication model for current viewers. Generally, the paywall seems to affect mobile streaming most.
Mobile access this year will extend to Android phones in addition to dedicated iOS apps. Sponsors for the iOS apps include Buick, Coke Zero and CapitalOne. Sponsor support for the Android app comes from AT&T, Infiniti and LG.
March Madness is among the most-watched cross-platform video events of the year. Up to 3 million unique users a day have accessed the service at peak. Over the years it has been the testing ground for a number of content, social media and pricing models for multiplatform viewing.
Turner and CBS last year started a 14-year $10.8 billion deal with the NCAA to broadcast games that allowed every game in the championship to be aired in full on one of four cable networks owned across the two companies. According to a Newsday report, Turner had held off using online authentication of its subscribers last year because its TV everywhere system was still new and did not cover enough of the country’s viewers. This year, it was looking for a comfortable price point for extending access to mobile. “Obviously a lot of thought and market research went into that price point,” Turner SVP Matthew Hong told Newsday. “We wanted to make it a fair price and for people to get value at that price…we wanted to incent authentication.”
In its early years, March Madness On Demand did exact a $15 fee for Web access to streaming, but it reverted to free streaming in 2006.