It's that time of year when college basketball dominates screens and fans partake in the fun of bracket challenges and competitions. March Madness games kick off next week, and Turner Sports and CBS Sports will provide live coverage of all 67 games from the tournament across TBS, CBS, TNT, and truTV. Turner Sports, in partnership with the NCAA and CBS Sports, is also the producer of the NCAA March Madness Live platform—the live streaming and second screen destination for the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship. The network continues to experiment each year with new technologies and methods to further engage viewers throughout the entire tournament. This year is no different and promises an exciting experience on the updated platform.
"The theme of this year will be interactivity," said Turner Sports Senior Vice President of Digital Hania Poole. "Because we're not a streaming platform that spans the entire year—we're up for about three weeks—we have to continue to differentiate our experiences."
Kim Saunders, senior director of video products for Turner Sports, explained that while the team's mission is to "deliver a seamless viewer experience across the March Madness platform," Turner Sports takes a step further every year by creating new opportunities to engage an even wider subset of fans both on the viewership experience and on the second screen experience.
To further "gamify" the second screen experience and get fans excited about watching every moment of every NCAA March Madness game, Saunders announced that Turner Sports is rolling out a new suite of play products this season. "We've spent time investing in technology heading into this tournament. We've reduced latency by about 20%. The video will be faster than ever." She added, "We've also improved the sound quality. We've launched new surround sound 5.1. Games will sound better."
Turner Sports will also unveil a multigame feature on select devices that will give fans the ability to watch two games at the same time from large viewpoints, with the audio playing from the primary game that the viewer selects. "We expect that viewership numbers and time spent will absolutely grow within the connected device experience," said Saunders.
Fan favorites are also back, including Fast Break, which is available the first four days of the tournament and provides an exclusive look at all the tournament action from a single production. The production team is enhancing coverage this year by utilizing Second Spectrum strains within the broadcast. As Joanna Lieberman, business manager for Turner Sports, explained, "Second Spectrum is an analytics engine which breaks down meaningful stats from the games utilizing compelling graphic overlays."
And brand new this tournament is the Starting Lineup Challenge—a new NCAA March Madness Live game and the network's take on a player-management system. The Starting Lineup Challenge assigns participants a budget and allows them to pick the lineups of five teams, giving fans the opportunity to continue competing with challenge games even after their brackets are busted. "We've been working on this for a year. It will be alongside our Bracket Challenge which is great for engaging fans at the start of the tournament," said Daniel Wilco, associate product manager for Turner Sports. "But we wanted a way for users to be engaged throughout the entire tournament."
The NCAA "madness" officially begins with 'Selection Sunday' on March 13.