Nothing brings passionate and casual sports fans together quite like March Madness. Seven rounds of sudden-death, win-or-go-home basketball hold plenty of allure for diehard basketball fans. Office pools, alma mater bragging rights, and small-school Cinderella stories add to the storyline to make the NCAA men’s basketball tournament one of the preeminent events in American sports.
While the Super Bowl may be America’s most watched sporting event, March Madness may be America’s most disruptive. Last year, Yahoo Sports polled readers and learned that one in seven said he had called in sick at least once to watch March Madness basketball. Yet the growth of the digital experience through NCAA March Madness Live makes missing work unnecessary for most hoops-crazed fans.
The popularity of NCAA.com’s tournament site and apps underscores the evolution of how people tune into national events. Tablets and smartphones will keep fans connected to games’ opening rounds on Thursday and Friday when they’re at work, and over the weekend while we’re running errands or shepherding our kids to events. In fact, 20% of online traffic to game coverage came from tablets during the tournament’s opening weekend in 2012.
This year’s redesigned digital experience has been optimized for all digital devices, which will be great news for people wanting to follow the action on their tablets. This year NCAA.com March Madness Live will debut support for Android tablets, one year removed from the launch of an Android app for smartphones. IOS devices will be supported as in previous years. The app features live streaming and video highlights in addition to brackets, live scoring, in-game stats and social features.
Last year NCAA.com reported more than 1.1 million unique daily visitors to its sites during the tournament, with 473,000 unique mobile visits. Those numbers are bound to increase with this year’s additional reach and access, with some projections estimate that more than 17 million hours of hoops will be viewed during the next three weeks. Those numbers deliver staggering results on a number of fronts.
Advertisers Love March Madness
With digital and broadcast coverage of all 67 games now available nationally, March Madness brings in more advertising revenue than any of America’s professional post-season tournaments, most notably the NFL playoffs and Super Bowl. AdWeek notes that last year’s tournament generated $60 million in digital advertising on top of a record $1 billion in broadcast advertising revenue, as reported by Kanter Media.
IT Hates March Madness
Two in five IT professionals say March Madness puts a significant extra burden on their corporate networks. The same number also report that company networks have been slowed or shut down because of employees tuning in, according to a study from IT staffing company Modis.
Managers Cope with March Madness
An estimated 3 million American workers will spend an hour or more following college hoops at work during the tournament’s first two days, according to a survey from a global outplacement firm. It also estimated the cost of lost productivity at $134 million, though surveyors noted many workers make up hours for the time they’ll spend streaming basketball at work.
What to Watch in 2013
With more devices supported and the paywall removed, March Madness Live viewing should grow significantly in 2013 for NCAA.com. It may also prove to be a big test for TV Everywhere authentication services. Half of NCAA.com’s streaming coverage will be free to all, while the other half will be restricted to pay TV subscribers who verify their accounts. TV Everywhere was a topic of conversation at SXSW, where an NBCUniversal executive noted some consumers find the concept confusing. Will pay TV subscribers authenticate their accounts in large numbers to gain buzzer-to-buzzer access to tournament games? Those who don’t will still be able to enjoy a four-hour streaming preview.
Enjoy the digital experience of March Madness at http://www.ncaa.com/march-madness-live/.