We recently sat down with Turner Sports President Lenny Daniels on the "incredible" NCAA Men's National Championship game and what it means for Turner, the company's Team Stream approach, and what fans can expect from future broadcasts.
This year marked the first time the championship game was carried exclusively on cable. What did that mean for Turner, and looking back, what was the biggest challenge in doing this for the first time?
This is a huge milestone for Turner. It marks the first time in our company’s history that we were able to crown a champion for a premier sporting event. The NCAA Tournament truly captivates the nation and is the most-discussed event for nearly a month every year. You simply can’t duplicate that type of affinity fans have for March Madness and we were all treated to an incredible National Championship game this year, one that will go down as one of the best in the history of the tournament!
Everything we do surrounding the NCAA Tournament is done in partnership with CBS, so the overall dynamic did not drastically change this year. Together, we always try and expand and improve our coverage of the event and we feel like we were able to do that – through the introduction of “Team Stream” or team-specific coverage of the National Championship, among other enhancements – this year.
How did you come up with the innovative Team Stream approach? What feedback did you get from it? Could this be a game-changer in terms of what fans can now expect from live sports broadcasts?
Each year, we look back at our coverage of every event we do and identify ways to make them better the following year. When Turner was preparing to televise our first Final Four National Semifinal two years ago, we wanted to leverage all of our assets to provide the best possible experience for our fans. This concept was all about giving our fans multiple ways to watch the Final Four. If they were interested in traditional game coverage, they could watch the action on TBS. If they were a fan of one of the teams playing in the Final Four, they may prefer a telecast that is centered on the game through that vantage point and we offered it on TNT and truTV. And, if fans are on the go, they could access all three feeds through NCAA March Madness Live.
We listen carefully to our fans and we know they like the idea of having a variety of viewing options. The feedback has been very positive and we believe that any time you can put the fan first will ultimately yield a positive result.
Fans and viewers on the whole now seem to expect an unprecedented level of interactivity in their viewing experience. What new features did you add to the March Madness App this year?
We’ve been very progressive with NCAA March Madness Live. When you talk about putting the fan first, we’re constantly looking at fan consumption patterns and their overall interest in various forms of content. We centered the product more on the video experience this year, making it easier than ever before to instantly have access to live games (when they are going on) as well as highlights and on-demand content. We also continued to integrate social media into the app for a complete consumer experience.
From a distribution perspective, we expanded the reach of the app to a record 13 platforms across mobile, tablets, desktop and set-top boxes this year. We also provided coverage of the Final Four National Semifinals and National Championship in virtual reality for the first time.
What opportunities is Turner exploring (digital, streaming, etc.) to provide fans with even more access during future tournaments?
We’re always looking at new ways to connect with fans through any and every platform they are using to consume media. I’m particularly interested in the connected home experience and how technology will advance opportunities in that area. We are entering a very exciting time in our ever-evolving industry and I’m excited about the endless possibilities.