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March Madness Live looks to enhanced bracket capabilities to spur engagement

Filling out brackets for the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship is getting easier this year after a redesign of March Madness Live, the suite of livestreaming products managed by AT&T Inc.'s Turner Sports in partnership with CBS Corp.'s CBS Sports and the league.

The Capital One NCAA March Madness Bracket Challenge has been redesigned for mobile and internet usage with enhanced navigation and for the first time gives users access through connected devices. It is the only tourney selection game that integrates access to the brackets, with an accompanying livestream for all 67 contests. The revamped digital effort is designed to boost engagement throughout the tournament.

"We've made the integrated video native," said Chris Pellani, senior director of product management at Turner Sports, during an interview at March Madness Media Day on March 12. "You can check your picks from the game center and watch the action live."

Leading the enhanced bracket selection tool is a matchup analysis feature developed with Google Cloud, enabling fans to inform and personalize their picks by choosing from over 20 statistics and suggesting a winner for the various contests. The tool can auto-pick a complete bracket based upon their personalized selection criteria.

Tapping data and analytics, the "Bracket Persona" component provides users with insights and trend analysis that compares their brackets versus average selections.

In 2018, NCAA March Madness Live generated over 19 million live hours of consumption, the second most in its history, according to data from Conviva. The platform set records for livestreams for an individual contest — Oklahoma versus Rhode Island on March 15, 2018 — and for the most concurrent streams in the 2:30 p.m. window that day. It scored 6% increases in livestreams and hours consumed compared to the 2016 tourney, the last time the Final Four national semifinals and championship game aired on Turner networks.

This year, NCAA March Madness Live will livestream all games across 17 platforms, spanning smartphones, tablets, streaming sticks and players and virtual-reality formats.

NCAA March Madness Live will extend digital "whip-around" coverage, introduced last year, through the event's first weekend as well. The "Fast Break" feature switches fans from contest to contest with live look-ins, highlights, social reaction and commentary. Fast Break harks back to the format in the days before Turner Sports, when CBS (US) televised the opening rounds on a regional basis and would switch viewers from game to game at the conclusion of tight contests.

John Bogusz, executive vice president of sports sales and marketing at CBS, said NCAA March Madness Live inventory was virtually sold out and at a greater volume level than last year. Reflecting the way an increasing number of fans are watching the event, more than 80% of tournament advertisers have secured both linear and digital schedules.

The trio of NCAA Corporate Champions AT&T, Capital One and Coca-Cola together are the presenting sponsors for NCAA March Madness Live overall. From a mobile perspective, Coca-Cola, Capital One and Buick will sponsor the app for iOS devices, while AT&T, Capital One and Infiniti are supporting the Android app.

SNL Image

An array of screenshots for the NCAA's March Madness Live digital presentation.
Source: Turner Sports