For the 3rd year in a row, Turner and CBS are airing all 67 games of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship simultaneously across 4 nets— TBS, TNT, truTV and CBS —and allowing pay TV subs to authenticate across a suite of streaming applications via their March Madness Live product. But whereas last year the companies charged fans a one-time $3.99/person fee to stream games if they didn’t authenticate, for this tourney they’re offering a free 4-hour preview option before requiring viewer registration for the cable nets.
The 4-hour period, which can be divvied up across multiple games, is designed to give subs who aren’t familiar with the credential process the opportunity to catch a game or two without delay. Last year’s $3.99 charge was "not about generating revenue," Matthew Hong, Turner Sports svp and gm, operations, told CableFAX after a Turner/CBS NCAA March Madness media event in NY Monday. And it didn’t. It was more about "preserving the value for our MVPDs," he said. Games were available online for free the 1st year of the Turner/CBS March Madness partnership. In 2013, "the industry is much further along with TV Everywhere," he said. "We’re moving almost fully to a TV Everywhere model," with the 4-hour trial being a fallback for those who haven’t previously registered for TVE.
The authentication process will be consistent with other products in the market. "There are more devices in the marketplace, so there are more devices that were optimized," he said. Regarding consumer viewing patterns, Hong expects the trend of mobile viewing to continue to increase. "If you look at all live video consumption across all digital platforms, that’s increased year over year," he said. Given that nearly 50% of viewers who watched on digital platforms last year did so on mobile devices, "I would put it at over 50% at mobile viewing" this year, he said.
Another improvement for ’13: March Madness Live’s social media experience will include curated tweets that are further integrated alongside the video product, as well as increased capability for viewers to push out Facebook posts and tweets while they’re watching.