March Madness continues to push broadcasting into streaming sports coverage online, beyond the limits of regional TV stations. All 67 games in this NCAA basketball tournament will be streamed live for sports fans in the United States. But if you are out of the country, you’re blocked out of the game — unless you’ve got a virtual private network to hide your IP address and change it to one from the US.
March Madness is a single elimination competition featuring the best American college teams. It opens March 19 with 64 teams and ends in the finals on April 8. It’s known for avid fans setting up office betting pools, rearranging work schedules, and having their social lives revolve around the tournament. Over 20 million viewers across the United States watched March Madness last year on their TV’s. Increasingly, they also follow the action on their smartphones and tablets, with over 1.1 million unique visits daily to the NCAA website during the event.
This year’s March Madness will be another test case of a limited pay wall in action: the NCAA March Madness Live® App. If you’re already a pay TV subscriber, this app will get you streaming access to the games across all of your viewing devices at no additional charge. As an added teaser for 2013, the NCAA March Madness Live® gives all users up to four hours of free live game streaming before requiring registration. Last year, this cost $3.99. And another plus for 2013, games broadcast on CBS TV will be streamed at CBSSports.com.
The tournament has a huge online fan base. Just for comparison, the 2013 Super Bowl attracted three million unique online viewers for a one-afternoon event. March Madness brings in over a million viewers each day on average during the entire tournament.
And like the Super Bowl, the online sports will be likely limited to viewers with an American GeoIP. Try to watch from a location in Britain or Germany, and you will likely see just a gray screen and a “data load error” message.
That’s a shortsighted policy, especially considering the popularity of basketball around the world. You don’t have to be an alumnus of Gonzaga University to appreciate “good game”. Why turn away a global audience? And, why restrict fans that are abroad because of work or studies?
Sports fans outside of the United States have a few options: you can look for an “American” sports bar, watch streaming video from questionable P2P sources, or just use the free Hotspot Shield VPN to hide your IP address and unblock the CBSSports.com restrictions. Now that’s something to cheer about.
Lyle Frink on Google+