Sports Geekery

Following Sports with Mobile Apps, Computers, & Gadgets

Reviewing the March Madness Live App Experience

March Madness has been streamed online for many years, and for those that don’t already know, the NCAA began charging to watch March Madness on your computers and mobile devices for the first time in 2012.  After a week of following all that college basketball on my iPad and computer, I thought it was time for a little review of the experience.

The NCAA dubbed their new product “March Madness Live.” For a single fee of $3.99, fans get live access to every NCAA Men’s College Basketball tournament game on computer, iPhone, iPad and a number of Android devices. Sign up was very easy through an in app iPad purchase and with jus a email and password, I could log in to any other compatible devices and computers without problem.

Even though it is a paid app, there are no shortage of ads within the mobile apps and the online video player. You get all the commercials during the typical TV breaks, plus plenty of in-app ads. Some fans will complain about the double-dip of being presented with ads after paying money on an app, but I find it really tough to complain about a fan friendly price of $3.99 to watch one of American’s great sporting events on mobile devices and computers. However…

I spent most of the first two days of the tournament viewing from the iPad and one thing I noticed very quickly that really needs to change is the 15 second pre-roll ads that play every time you switch to a different game. I’m not against ads or the NCAA making money, but pre-roll ads for a live stream is just a very user unfriendly feature. It’s not a static pre-produced video. With time sensitive live video like March Madness games, 15 second pre-roll ad could mean you are stuck watching Alec Baldwin yap about Capital One instead of witnessing a classic buzzer beater.

It was a constant frustration for me as I tried to jump to close games with a minute or two remaining only to have to sit through an ad I can’t skip past. I understand their reason for doing it. They don’t want users to simply jump to another game during every commercial break. For the sake of the product, however, there has to be a better way. At the very least, perhaps they could suspend the pre-roll ads during the final 5 minutes of each half. (Note: These pre-roll ads are played on the computer version too.)

March Madness Live App (iPad)

The picture quality on the iPad was quite uneven. At times it was clear, while at other times it was heavily pixelated, stuttering, and blurry. I initially assumed it was my Internet connection, but after testing it at other locations throughout the first weekend, I found the same issues at every location.

If that wasn’t disappointing enough, the scoreboard on each game screen along the top of the screen did not update. To check the score, you actually have to switch to the scoreboard tab.

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There are some cool features like the lead tracker and the ability to quickly set an alert for a particular game. However, the two tabbed banners that flanked the video screen (in standard view) seemed to be a rather inefficient use of screen space. I didn’t find the the social media tab (Twitter) of the app to be useful at all. The stats tab is fine, but would work better as a fly-out feature as it isn’t really something you need displayed all game.

March Madness Live Online

The pure online version of March Madness Live was a far superior experience. The picture quality was very good even in full screen mode and the scoreboard along the top of the screen actually updated in real-time. The screen was not as cluttered as the iPad app with features like social media placed more efficiently along the bottom of the screen.

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Overview

Despite the issues, I’d still drop the 4 bucks for March Madness Live. I might not pay just for mobile access, but as long as I can watch online and the quality is good, it’s still worth it. As mentioned previously, it’s such a nominal fee and for those that don’t have cable it’s an especially good deal. If they plan on upping the price of March Madness Live in the coming years, they really need to tighten things up on the mobile end.

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