For years, March Madness has been an exciting event to look forward to for much more than just basketball lovers. Watching live sporting events, especially with the emotional impact of single-elimination tournaments, continues to entice viewers from all around. The sheer scale of the event, with 64 teams from all over the US competing, coupled with the tournament's multi-week format across four regions, makes March Madness one of a kind!
The NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship also presents some very unique quality-of-experience (QoE) challenges for live OTT video broadcasters.
Let's look at the stats. Last year the national college basketball championship tourney grossed 2.5 billion minutes of consumption across television and digital platforms. NCAA March Madness Live, managed by Turner Sports, delivered 22.5 million live video streams and 4.9 million live hours of video consumption, setting all-time records for the first Thursday of the tournament.
Likewise, last year's live streaming coverage of the Duke vs. UNC Wilmington match-up netted 5.5 million live video streams, an all-time record for an individual game during the NCAA Tournament. In addition, coverage of the first Thursday of the tournament generated 1.6 million video views across the official Facebook and Twitter social media channels for March Madness, up 62% over last year.
Conviva Inc. saw a spike of almost two times the average number of content plays across all our publishers in the opening week of the tournament. While we regularly see single-digit month-to-month growth and double-digit annual growth in such streaming video statistics as viewer hours, content plays, and peak concurrent connections, it is very rare to see such triple-digit month-to-month growth.
What makes this particularly interesting is that in April 2016, the month following last spring's tournament, the numbers settled back to the pre-March figures. This points to March Madness being the source of the spike in OTT viewership.
Live events such as March Madness present unique capacity challenges to OTT publishers and service providers alike to maintain great quality of experience (QoE) and do so at a reasonable cost. It requires very careful peak capacity planning and provisioning. In particular, March Madness is challenging because of the long duration of the event, its distributed viewership and its unpredictable match-ups that drive unusually high viewership for sometimes just a few emotional moments in any given game or city.
We will be watching this year both to be entertained by one of sport's greatest events and to see what the new data can tell us about streaming video data trends.
— Ed Haslam, CMO, Conviva