The NCAA Men’s College Basketball tournament–better known as ‘March Madness‘ has grown over the years to the point that it now rivals the Super Bowl as a ‘must see’ sporting event. It’s the biggest betting event of the year for North American facing sports books. The Super Bowl attracts more action on one day, but the first two rounds of ‘March Madness’ attract more betting money.
Even if you’re not a serious college basketball fan, everyone follows ‘March Madness’ and has an opinion on the games. Every office or business has their own March Madness ‘pool’, and the opening weekend of the tournament is one of the biggest tourism weekends of the year in Las Vegas and Reno. March Madness is the focal point of the US sports scene from start to finish.
THE BIGGEST BASKETBALL EVENT OF THE YEAR GETS EVEN BIGGER:
The NCAA realizes that they have a ‘cash cow’ on their hands with the men’s college basketball tournament and have done anything they can to make it more lucrative. They have expanded the number of teams involved in the tournament over the years and most recently increased the total field to 68 teams. The eight bottom ranked of the 68 teams play in the ‘first four’ games with the winners moving to the main bracket. In addition to more teams in the field, it has moved up the start of the tournament from Thursday to Tuesday.
March Madness has also become one of the most sought after sports properties for television broadcasters. In 2010, the NCAA signed a deal with CBS and Turner Broadcasting for the rights to telecast the games–the fourteen year, $10.8 billion deal set a new standard for sports broadcasting rights fees. CBS sells over a half billion annually in advertising for ‘March Madness’ and that figure should grow as the online component starts to reach the same levels as the television broadcasts.
WATCH MARCH MADNESS GAMES ONLINE:
If you’re in the United States, you’ll have no problem watching the entire NCAA Men’s College Basketball tournament online. You’ll also be able to watch the Women’s Basketball Tournament online if you’re so inclined. In fact, there isn’t a high profile sporting event all year with such high quality and ubiquitous online access as the NCAA March Madness tournament.
The NCAA and CBS was an early pioneer in live sports streaming and have provided full access to all tournament games online for a number of years. Now that Turner Broadcasting is ‘in the mix’ there have been some slight changes but the bottom line is that all NCAA tournament games are available online for free (or almost free) live streaming. All games broadcast on CBS are available for free streaming. Games broadcast on TNT, TBS or Turner owned TruTV are available free to cable subscribers. Non-subscribers have in the past been required to pay a nominal fee (most recently $3.99) for full streaming access.
Live streaming viewers get the same game coverage as the broadcast television audience–at least up until the semifinals. At that point, the March Madness live streaming audience has the choice of watching the game with the national play by play or with the audio coverage of each participating school.
MOBILE VIEWING OPTIONS:
The NCAA hasn’t forgotten about the rapidly growing mobile based audience. The entire menu of live game coverage plus additional news, stats and social media interaction is available on a dedicated application for Apple, Android and Windows tablets and smartphones. In fact, many viewers prefer the ease of use of the mobile app interface over the computer-based version.
There are a few glaring omissions in NCAA live streaming mobile format availability. There is no support for the popular TV streaming devices including Roku, AppleTV and Amazon Fire. There is also no support for the videogame platforms that offer live streaming including the X-Box and Sony Playstation. All of the major professional sports leagues, as well as ESPN, have streaming functionality via the aforementioned devices, so it’s curious that there is little interest from the NCAA to follow suit.
OTHER WAYS TO STREAM MARCH MADNESS:
If you’re in the United States, you’re all set for March Madness streaming. If you’re anywhere else in the world, you’ll have to find another option. Depending on what country you’re in you might find an ‘official’ broadcast affiliate covering the NCAA tournament games both on television and via live streaming. Basketball is truly an international sport and with the US college game growing in popularity worldwide, these options should increase in coming years.
If there isn’t a broadcast affiliate in your country, there are other ways to access a March Madness live stream. It’s possible to use a proxy server to emulate a US based IP address and access the ‘official’ live streaming feed. And of course you can find the games at the usual sources of live online sports streaming–sites like Stream2Watch, FirstRowSports and LiveTV.