March Madness Live Tries to Entice Viewers in Down Year

    • In a year where sports TV viewership has dropped across the board, streaming platforms are looking to reach audiences traditional television may have lost.
    • March Madness Live, the NCAA men’s tournament streaming platform, is looking to engage viewers not only with their slate of games, but also a new look and interactive features.

In a year where sports TV viewership has dropped across the board, streaming platforms are looking to reach audiences traditional television may have lost.

March Madness Live, the NCAA men’s tournament streaming platform, is looking to engage viewers not only with their slate of games, but also with a new look and interactive features.

“We’re not only the first screen, but we’re also the second screen,” Turner Sports SVP of Digital Hania Poole told FOS.

Live streams during the First Four games saw “double-digit increases” from 2019, according to Turner. In the first week of the tournament, March Madness Live’s “connected device use,” or viewership through platforms like Apple TV or Roku, has grown 5% since 2019.

Viewership for the first weekend of the NCAA men’s tournament in general, however, dipped about 3% since 2019. Poole said before the tournament that she had “modest” expectations this year for viewership, so that isn’t surprising.

Poole’s team has specifically continued to “lean in” to bracket features on the platform, she said. Research found that consumers were more likely to watch games if they were engaged with brackets. “It’s just more connective tissue to the tournament.”

Pandemic cancelations have made it harder for viewers to get into a “rhythm” to watch college basketball, which has made viewership suffer, Poole explained. The absence of “blue bloods” like Duke, Louisville, and Kentucky this year also contributes to the drop.

“Even people who hate Duke like to show up to watch them lose,” Poole said.