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March Madness in Bytes

Every year, millions of people call in sick — or just plain slack off at work — to watch the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. With more and more people watching the tournament’s games online via their computer, tablet, or smartphone, we thought it would interesting to try and predict the total number of hours that will be streamed during this year’s March Madness.

After crunching the numbers, we came to an estimate of 17,786,648 total hours — a 29% increase over last year. Will we be right on the money? Probably not. But it will be fun to find out.

Check back daily throughout the tournament to see how close our prediction ends up being to the final number. And enjoy March Madness!

How We Did Our Calculations

Paper, pencil, calculator

Supporting Research

How Many People Streamed The NCAA Tournament Last Year?

During 2011’s NCAA Tournament, A Daily Average Of 1.9 Million Unique Users Watched The Games Online. “During the most recent tournament, between March 15 and April 4 last year, an average of 1.9 million unique users watched March Madness games online, CBS said in a news release at the time.” (Brian Stelter, “2.1 Million Streamed The Super Bowl, NBC Says,” The New York Times, 2/7/12)

  • “On Certain Days, There Were More Than Three Million Unique Users, Many Of Whom Were At Work But Wanted To Follow Along.” (Brian Stelter, “2.1 Million Streamed The Super Bowl, NBC Says,” The New York Times, 2/7/12)
  • “[Fans] Watched 13.7 Million Hours Of Streaming Video Online And Through Mobile Devices, A 17 Percent Increase From 2010.” (“2012 NCAA Basketball Tournament Games No Longer Free Online For All,” Courier-Journal, 2/16/12)

What Does CBS Expect Viewership To Be This Year?

“NCAA March Madness Live Will Offer Higher Quality Live Video Streams Across Platforms; Video Highlights For Every Game Of The Tournament On The iPhone And Android Phones; Live Game Alerts For Android Phones, As Well As iPhones And iPads” (Big Lead Sports, “Is CBS Trying To Charge Fans $3.99 To Watch The NCAA Tournament Online? Not Really,” Posted By Jason McIntyre, thebiglead.com, 2/16/12)

Live Streaming Online Coverage Of Games This Year Will Be Free For Most But Not All Viewers. “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. … About 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.” (“2012 NCAA Basketball Tournament Games No Longer Free Online For All,” Courier-Journal, 2/16/12)

  • “Authentication” Is An Added Step To Last Year’s Viewing System. “[A]uthentication — 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’ Facebook logins.” (“2012 NCAA Basketball Tournament Games No Longer Free Online For All,” Courier-Journal, 2/16/12)
  • “Fans Can Also Pay $3.99 To See Every Game On Multiple Platforms — Online, Mobile And Tablet.” (“2012 NCAA Basketball Tournament Games No Longer Free Online For All,” Courier-Journal, 2/16/12)
  • “It Appears That This $3.99 Fee Will Only Impact A Small Number Of Viewers – Those Who Don’t Have A Cable/Satellite Provider.” (Big Lead Sports, “Is CBS Trying To Charge Fans $3.99 To Watch The NCAA Tournament Online? Not Really,” Posted By Jason McIntyre, thebiglead.com, 2/16/12)

How Many People Are Expected To Stream The Games Live On Their Computers Or Smartphones?

2011 Mobile And Computer Viewing Statistics: “Turner Sports, CBS Sports and the NCAA announced today that for the first two weeks of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship they have delivered a 60% increase in total visits across the NCAA March Madness on Demand (MMOD) online product and iPad and iPhone apps. In total, there were 41.6 million visits across the MMOD broadband and mobile platforms from the start of the First Four® on March 15 to the completion of the Regional Finals on March 27. Additionally, the first five rounds of the tournament garnered 12.7 million total hours of streaming video consumed through MMOD online and the iPad and iPhone apps.” (Time Warner, 2011 NCAA March Madness On Demand Sees 60% Increase In Total Visits Across Multiple Platforms For The NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship,” http://www.timewarner.com, 3/28/11)

  • “An Average Of 3.8 Million Daily Unique Visitors On Broadband And 782,000 Average Daily Unique Users On The Mobile Apps For March 17 – March 18.
  • “29% Of All Streams For MMOD From March 15 – March 27 Were From The Ipad And Iphone Apps.
  • “An Average Of 64 Minutes Per Daily Unique Visitor Was Spent Streaming MMOD On Broadband From March 15 - 27.
  • “An Average Of 25 Minutes Per Daily Unique Visitor Was Spent Streaming MMOD On Mobile Apps On March 17-18.” (Time Warner, 2011 NCAA March Madness On Demand Sees 60% Increase In Total Visits Across Multiple Platforms For The NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship,” http://www.timewarner.com, 3/28/11)

How Much Bandwidth Is Expected To Be Used Streaming Games?

“Real-Time Entertainment” Such As The NCAA Tournament Consumes About 50% Of All North American Bandwidth. “Now, according to a report by Sandvine Global, what they call ‘Real-Time entertainment’ or streaming videos, live TV such as the NCAA Tournament or on-demand services like Netflix and Hulu comprise around 50% of all bandwidth used in North America. According to the study, Netflix itself takes up around 30% of all bandwidth and prime-time hours.” (Heritage West Staff Blog, “Netflix Dominance Continues,” Posted By Kevin Doby, heritageweststaffblog.blogspot.com, 5/19/11)

  • “Each NCAA On Demand Stream Requires About 650 Kbps And The High-Quality Version Will Consume Up To 1.8 Mbps.” (Paetec Thought Clouds, “Is Your Network Ready for March Madness?” blog.paetec.com , 3/10/2011)

How Many People Streamed The Most Recent Super Bowl?

According To NBC, 2.1 Million People Watched Super Bowl XLVI Via Live Stream. “More than 2.1 million people turned on the live Internet stream of Super Bowl XLVI on Sunday night, NBC said on Tuesday, citing data from two measurement firms, Omniture and mDialog.” (Brian Stelter, “2.1 Million Streamed The Super Bowl, NBC Says,” The New York Times, 2/7/12)

  • “NBC Said In A News Release That The Live Stream Represented The ‘Most-Watched Single-Game Sports Event Ever Online.’” (Brian Stelter, “2.1 Million Streamed The Super Bowl, NBC Says,” The New York Times, 2/7/12)
  • “Sunday’s Live Stream Was A Notable Moment Because No Television Network Had Made The Super Bowl Broadcast Available Over The Internet.” (Brian Stelter, “2.1 Million Streamed The Super Bowl, NBC Says,” The New York Times, 2/7/12)
  • “NBC Billed The Stream As A Complement To Its Television Broadcast, Not A Replacement.” (Brian Stelter, “2.1 Million Streamed The Super Bowl, NBC Says,” The New York Times, 2/7/12)
  • “The 2.1 Million Unique Users Watched A Total Of 4.59 Million Live Video Streams, According To NBC, Reflecting The Fact That Live Streams Sometimes Need To Be Rebooted By Users.” (Brian Stelter, “2.1 Million Streamed The Super Bowl, NBC Says,” The New York Times, 2/7/12)
  • “NBC Said That 78.6 Million Total Minutes Were Streamed.” (Brian Stelter, “2.1 Million Streamed The Super Bowl, NBC Says,” The New York Times, 2/7/12)
  • Because It Was Held On A Sunday, The Super Bowl Benefited Less From At-Work Viewing. “The Super Bowl, given that it is always held on a weekend, benefited less from at-work viewing and more from second-screen viewing, meaning that people who were watching on TV also wanted to watch the online stream, which had different camera angles and a live chat box.” (Brian Stelter, “2.1 Million Streamed The Super Bowl, NBC Says,” The New York Times, 2/7/12)
  • In Days Leading Up To The Super Bowl, The Federal Government “Shut Down” 16 Websites That Provided Users With Access To Pirated Streams Of Live Sportscasts. “Reuters reported on Thursday that the federal government shut down 16 websites that gave users access to pirated streams of live sportscasts. The sites included links to NFL, NBA, NHL and WWE broadcasts. The websites are irstrow.tv, firstrowsports.com, firstrowsports.net, firstrowsports.tv, hq-streams.tv, robplay.tv, soccertvlive.net, sports95.com, sports95.net, sports95.org, sportswwe.net, sportswwe.tv, sportswwe.com, xonesports.tv, youwwe.com and youwwe.net. Sites such as these take away broadcast revenue from teams and leagues, which in turn, causes ticket prices and network rates to skyrocket.” (New England Sports Network, “Federal Government Seizes 16 Illegal Streaming Websites Before Super Bowl,” Posted By Brandon Chase, http://www.nesn.com, 2/4/12)

One Small Caveat

This year, the March Madness On Demand (MMOD) app will cost a one-time price of $3.99 to watch all games live on a computer, iPhone, iPad, and select Android phones. This charge to users could affect our prediction.

Posted by admin on 03/09 at 12:41 PM

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