Evolution of March Madness Consumption Underscores Importance of IP Transition, Sound Federal Spectrum Policy and Regulatory Modernization
WASHINGTON, D.C. – March 19, 2013 – In conjunction with the kick-off of the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Championship, one of the most online-watched sports events in America, the Internet Innovation Alliance (IIA) today released a timeline detailing the evolution of March Madness consumption. Beginning in 1996, the same year that Congress passed a landmark Telecom Act that referenced the Internet just once, the timeline shows how consumer demand for March Madness has exponentially increased the need for Internet Protocol (IP)-enabled services like real-time online video and mobile data, underscoring the need for a move to next-generation networks and sound federal spectrum policy.
“While many things in college basketball have not changed over the years – games are still 40 minutes, upsets are guaranteed and Duke remains the team you love to hate – how consumers follow their favorite teams has radically and rapidly evolved,” observed Bruce Mehlman, IIA founding co-chairman. “Telecommunications policy makers should take note of the vastly different market landscape. Rather than trying to force-fit legacy telecom rules to the broadband era, policy makers should show humility and address today’s dynamic marketplace.”
Timeline: Evolution of March Madness Consumption
1996: The NCAA creates the first online computer page for the Final Four.
2003: CBSSports.com, CBS Sports, and the NCAA first partner to produce NCAA March Madness on Demand, the official online platform of the tournament offering basketball live feeds, as well as on demand video streaming.
2005: CBS begins a two-year deal with CSTV.com for exclusive Internet video streaming rights for out-of-market game coverage for the first 58 games of the championship.
2006: March Madness on Demand sees 19 million video streams and 5 million visits.
2007: Due to 2006 traffic, CBS Sportsline doubles its bandwidth capacity for March Madness on Demand, which offers free live Internet streams of each game of the first three rounds of the championship.
2008: CBSSports.com and March Madness on Demand launch a developer platform that allows more than 200 websites to carry live video of the championship online, including sites such as ESPN.com, Yahoo, SI.com, YouTube and Facebook. CBS allows users to watch all 63 games that it telecasts during the tournament for the first time, and sees the total number of unique visitors from first-round games through the regional championship games grow from 1.75 million to 4.33 million.
2011: Akamai’s global network is used to provide live and on-demand streaming video across broadband and mobile applications. Akamai delivers live games and on demand content to more than 1.9 million unique visitors per day on broadband sites and more than 680,000 daily visitors to mobile applications. By the event’s end, there is a 63 percent increase in total visits across the 2011 NCAA March Madness on Demand broadband and mobile products, and a 17 percent increase in online video consumption throughout the tournament compared to the previous year. This year, for the first time, live streaming video of every game of the tournament is available online.
2012: The Android phone is added as a viewing platform for NCAA March Madness Live (formerly March Madness on Demand). NCAA.com/March Madness Live, CBSSports.com, SI.com, TruTV.com, TNT.tv and TBS.com deliver over 220 million visits across online and mobile platforms. This marks an 11% increase from 198 million in 2011.
What’s in store for 2013?
“From March Madness to the Olympics and the Super Bowl, consumers are increasingly relying on a high-speed broadband Internet connection to tune into their favorite sporting events,” said IIA Co-Chairman Jamal Simmons. “Moving to all IP networks is a promising way to expand services like the online delivery of real-time video consumers want and services like remote health monitoring consumers need.”
Simmons added, “With smartphone adoption continuing to climb, mobile consumption is sure to boom during the 2013 tournament. It’s clear that demand will soon outpace supply, and policy makers should thoughtfully tackle spectrum policy now.”
In Multichannel News, Mark Johnson, Turner Sports vice president of business operations explains, “Broadband connections at work on that first Thursday (3/21) and Friday (3/22) are still huge for us. On those two days, we’ll do forty to fifty percent of our streams.” From the article: “Whereas broadband dominates the aforementioned days, when it comes to weekends March Madness Live on mobile is the fashion, as people are ‘running to the mall, or their kids’ soccer practice. They are checking the scores, looking at streams. Mobile has become the weekend device,’ said Johnson.”
According to IIA Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher, the first step to meet this challenge is to conduct a successful Federal Communications Commission (FCC) incentive spectrum auction that will be open to all bidders and provides additional spectrum for consumer mobile broadband services:
“History has shown that when the FCC has tried to pick winners and losers in the wireless market, American consumers have lost. Past attempts by the Commission to favor certain bidders and/or impose rigid regulations on auction winners have drastically diminished auction proceeds, left major blocks of spectrum unused, and led to what FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski himself has labeled ‘America’s looming spectrum crisis.’
“Only through truly competitive, open spectrum auctions will America’s wireless industry continue to thrive. After all, the best way to ensure competition is to encourage everyone to compete. Ultimately, sound spectrum policy translates into a win for America’s consumers and economy.”
To learn more about what policy makers can do to help accelerate the transition to all-IP networks and make more spectrum available to meet consumer demands, visit www.internetinnovation.org.
About The Internet Innovation Alliance
The Internet Innovation Alliance was founded in 2004 and is a broad-based coalition supporting high-speed broadband availability and access for all Americans, including underserved and rural communities. It aims to ensure every American, regardless of race, income or geography, has access to this critical tool. The IIA seeks to promote public policies that leverage the power of entrepreneurs and the market to achieve universal broadband availability and adoption.
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