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You’ll Never Miss That Game Again

3/05/2012 12:01 AM Eastern

Remember when it used to be that if you
weren’t able to find a television to watch the big game, you
either had to record it — while walking around with your
eyes shut and your hands over your ears — or (gulp) catch
the highlights after? We don’t either.

If the technology boon of the past few years has done
anything, it’s given fans no excuse to miss the big game.
Virtually every major college and professional sport is
available through broadcast, online or mobile platforms.

Next week begins year two for Turner Sports in covering
the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, in tandem
with longtime rightsholder CBS Sports. That means it’s
also year two of Turner’s involvement with the tourney’s
digital streaming component, “March Madness Live” (formerly
known as March Madness On Demand).

NEW: ANDROID, FEE

Aside from being available on a new platform — Android
users will now be able to catch every slam or gamewinning
shot, joining iPhone, iPad and online users — the
biggest differences are now the content must be authenticated
through a cable or satellite provider, or the user
must pay a $3.99 fee.

Matthew Hong, Turner Sports’ senior vice president and
general manager of operations, isn’t worried about the cost
scaring anyone off . “We feel like there is an extremely high
amount of value,” he said.

Saying $3.99 for access to every game equates to mere
“pennies per game,” Hong also stressed the importance of
having a digital element in today’s sports world. “It’s the
way consumption habits are moving.”

Hong said the plan was always to have the product be
authenticated — he said that they discussed whether or
not to do it last year, before ultimately
deciding that consumers were not too
familiar with the concept.

“The television model evolved in a
huge way in 2011, and we grandfathered
the digital model for a year,” he said. “[In]
2012, we’re just having the digital model
match the television model.”

In 2011, March Madness On Demand
scored a 63% year-over-year jump in visitors
to 52 million, and a 17% rise to some
13.7 million hours of streamed video,
30% of which emanated from new free
iPhone and iPad applications.

Hong said that the “majority of cable and
satellite providers” have struck TV Everywhere
deals for the service, which will be
available in more than 77 million homes.

That’s still at least 23 million homes
smaller than TNT’s universe. But Hong
said several factors keep Turner bullish
about the 2012 results: the continued
growth of digital media consumption in
general, further penetration of digital devices,
two- and three-screen companion
consumption, and the availability of the
product this year on Android.

He would not make usage or revenue
projections.

GOING ‘OVERTIME’

Turner provides two types of live streams. One is a simulcast, a
replica of the TV broadcast (March Madness Live and the National
Basketball Association’s NBA League Pass Broadband).
The other type is a companion-like “second screen”
stream, designed to be viewed along with the
TV broadcast.

Turner’s TNT Overtime lets viewers pick
different camera angles or focus exclusively
on only one player — “a stream that just focuses
on Kobe Bryant or Jeremy Lin, as [you’re]
watching the game on TNT,” said Hong.

Turner has no set plans to offer any kind
of special service during the upcoming NBA
Playoffs, Hong said. But he does expect Turner
will stream a larger percentage of the games
on TNT Overtime, including the entirety of
the Western Conference Finals (TNT and
ESPN/ABC rotate coverage of the East/West
finals each year).

For NASCAR coverage, Turner streams incar
cameras so viewers can follow their favorite
drivers. Turner recently re-upped its digital
agreement with NASCAR, which will hand over
the keys to the racing league in 2013, giving it
oversight of business and editorial operations
for its digital platforms, while Turner continues
to oversee ad sales and sponsorships.

Brian France, chairman and CEO of NASCAR,
said that “taking a leadership role as it relates
to our digital rights is something we as the
sanctioning body know is important for the
future of our sport.”

As temperatures continue to get warmer
(though if you’re living in New York, you’d
swear there was no winter), it can only mean
one thing: baseball season is close at hand.

MLB COMBINES MEDIA

As Major League Baseball gets set to take
the field for its 2012 campaign, the league’s
out-of-market online streaming service
MLB.tv will for the first time consolidate
its online and mobile packages.

Consumers who purchase the premium
version of the service receive a free
subscription to the league’s At Bat 12 mobile
application, which enables users to
view live games on their mobile devices.
Previously consumers had to purchase the
app separately.

This summer, NBC has said it plans to
air every event from the upcoming Summer
Olympic Games in London live on
one platform or another (broadcast, web,
mobile), with digital offerings on multiple
devices.

“We will be live on all various platforms:
the tablets, iPhone, Android as well as the
traditional laptop,” Rick Cordella, vice
president and general manager for NBC
Sports Digital, said.

While NBC has not yet revealed its
plans for the games, the network has
already said it will stream more events
than it has ever has for an Olympics.
Cordella said that NBC Sports’ focus is
“to put all our content out there, engage
the audience, whether they get it on a TV
or not.”

During the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing,
NBCUniversal offered 2,200 hours of live, streamed
events. There were more than 400 hours for the 2010
Winter Games in Vancouver, although the summer
games have a significantly greater amount of events.

“What you’ve seen in the past with what we’ve done for
Vancouver and Beijing is just a precursor of what we’re going
to attempt to do for London,” Cordella said.

SUPER BOWL EXPERIENCE

NBC continues to rack up experience in live-streaming big
events. Last month, it streamed the Super Bowl for the first
time ever in the U.S. on both NBCSports.com and NFL.com. Super Bowl XLVI attracted more than 2 million users,
making it the most-watched single-game sporting event
ever online.

“The Super Bowl XLVI live stream exceeded our expectations
in every way,” NBC Sports Group senior vice president
of business development and managing director of
digital media Kevin Monaghan said.

The NFL was also pleased with the online turnout, especially
given that the big game still ended up breaking the
U.S. record for a television audience.

“We will continue to look for more ways to reach our
fans,” Hans Schroeder, senior vice president of media
strategy and development at the National Football League,
said.

CBS — set to broadcast 2013’s Super Bowl XLVII — has
not yet announced any live-streaming plans.

“I think fans are expecting that now,” Cordella said of
digital components with sporting events. “I think we’re
past that experimental stage.”

September