Fans may have to pay to stream NCAA tourney
NEW YORK — Some fans will no longer be able to watch every NCAA men’s basketball tournament game online for free.
The model for streaming March Madness will change this year,
Turner, CBS and the NCAA announced Thursday. Games aired on CBS will
still be free through the network’s website. Most, but not all, viewers
who get TBS, TNT and truTV on their cable or satellite systems will be
able to watch games aired on those channels online at no cost.
Fans can also pay $3.99 to see every game on multiple platforms — online, mobile and tablet.
77 million households will be able to watch the Turner channels for
free online through a process called authentication. That’s out of the
100 million that get TBS and TNT, which are available in around 87
percent of American homes with televisions.
The way fans watch
March Madness on TV changed drastically last season with the start of
CBS and Turner’s 14-year, $10.8 billion deal with the NCAA. Instead of
CBS showing regional coverage and switching among games, each contest
aired nationally in its entirety on one of the four networks. The shift
was a hit: Viewership was up 14 percent for the tournament’s opening
As for the previous five years, fans could also see every
game for free online. They watched 13.7 million hours of streaming
video online and through mobile devices, a 17 percent increase from
Turner Sports senior vice president Matthew Hong said the
company considered using authentication last year but wanted to wait
until people adjusted to the new TV setup. Another factor was that the
system was available to far fewer subscribers a year ago; he hopes that
by 2013, all customers who get the Turner networks through their
providers will be able to authenticate.
The “TV Everywhere” model
has become popular with many networks as a way to allow viewers to watch
programs on multiple devices while encouraging them to stick with cable
and satellite providers. But authentication — proving you subscribe to a
provider that offers the service — does require an extra step from past
years for fans trying to access NCAA tournament games. Turner is
working to make the process easier, such as linking it to customers’
Some fans with the ability to authenticate may just decide it’s easier to pay the $3.99, Hong acknowledged.
“Obviously, a lot of thought and market research went into that price
point,” he said. “We wanted to make it a fair price and for people to
get value at that price. Obviously, we didn’t want to make it too high,
but we didn’t want to make it too low; we want to incent
March Madness on Demand was launched by CBS and
the NCAA in 2003 and required a subscription, with an average price of
$15, for the first three years. In 2006, it converted to a free,
ad-supported service. The new product will be known as March Madness
Live and still include ads.
There was initially a charge for
watching games on an iPhone, which became free for just last year. The
app will be available on Android phones for the first time during this