Every men’s college basketball national championship tournament game will be available as a free live stream for the first time on Apple Inc. (AAPL)’s iPhone, iPad and iPod touch devices, Turner Sports and CBS Sports announced.
The games, which were available as a $9.99 application on the iPhone and iPod touch last year, also will be available internationally as free live streams for the first time, Michael Adamson, a vice president at Time Warner Inc. (TWX)’s Turner Broadcasting, said in an interview.
The free stream offer is a result of the networks’ attempts to capitalize on younger viewers, who now routinely use hand- held devices or tablets while watching television, Adamson said in New York at an event to unveil the “2011 March Madness on Demand” products.
“We want people using the product with these companion views while they’re watching it on TV,” Adamson said. “If that’s the case, that’s a success in our minds, because that’s a good consumer experience and a larger aggregate audience as a result.”
A specialized application will be offered for the iPad configuration. The iPad debuted on April 3 last year, the same day as the National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament semifinals.
CBS Corp. (CBS) and Turner agreed in April on a $10.8 billion, 14-year contract for broadcast, Internet and wireless rights to the tournament, which this year has been expanded to 68 teams.
For the first time, every game will be shown nationally and in its entirety on CBS, TBS, TNT or truTV.
CBS last year offered a free mobile application for the tournament that showed scores, statistics and schedules, while the paid application allowed games to be streamed.
“It’s a math equation,” Walker Jacobs, an executive vice president at Turner, said in an interview. “How much money did we do last year? How much money are they bringing in? Can we afford to bring it to consumers for free, and the answer is yes.”
The CBS-Turner partnership has brought in more than 50 advertisers for the digital platform and revenue is up “significantly” over a year ago, Jacobs said, declining to reveal specifics.
Other new elements of the product include improved quality and larger-format streams, and a digital viewing guide that allows users to input local service providers, helping them to locate televised games more easily.
The tournament begins March 15 in Dayton, Ohio, and concludes April 4 in Houston.
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