Report: Only 20% of March Madness Viewers Plan to Stream Tournament; What Can Streamers Do to Improve Numbers?
The 2023 NCAA March Madness Men’s Basketball tournament is set to begin in earnest on March 16. Although there are several live TV streaming services that consumers could choose to watch with, it appears that the vast majority of audiences will be tuning in via traditional TV.
That’s according to data from Civic Science, which shows that 68% of people plan to watch the tournament on CBS, TNT, TBS, or truTV. Only 20% of college basketball fans plan to watch March Madness via a streaming service. Fourteen percent said they would use a live TV service like Sling TV or Hulu + Live TV, while another 6% said they would stream games with a mobile app on their phone or tablet.
When drilling down into the particulars of Civic Science’s data, this makes sense. According to their numbers, the two most-interested age groups in this year’s March Madness tournament are millennials and viewers 55 and up. A survey from 2022 found that while millennials are more likely to have cut the cord than any other fully adult generation, they are much more likely to tune into traditional TV for live sports. Sports fans 55 and older are much more hesitant to embrace streaming in general, as baby boomers are the only generation still subscribing to pay TV at a rate of above 50%.
Still, the numbers must be a bit disappointing to streaming operators, especially for sports-centric live service fuboTV, but given that Fubo doesn’t carry three of the four channels broadcasting the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament games, it is it was likely not going to be a leading contender for March Madness viewing. So what can streamers do to ensure they generate more interest for their Big Dance streams in future years?
For starters, they can work on boosting general interest in the tournament. Only 31% of respondents to Civic Science said they would be “somewhat closely” or “very closely” following March Madness this year, a drop of six percentage points from 2022’s results. There are many reasons for interest in the tournament to fluctuate, but streamers should be doing whatever they can to boost fan awareness and engagement.
From there, it’s up to streaming providers to ensure that newly engaged fans are using their service in particular. Paramount+ should have a big leg-up on other services, because of its lower cost and willingness to offer extended free trials. Not all March Madness games air on CBS, but the many that do can be live-streamed on Paramount+ for just $10 per month on its Premium tier, and Paramount is currently offering a 30-day free trial. Services like Sling and Hulu + Live TV might want to consider adding free trials during or before March Madness, to lure prospective users in.
Another way to get more fans interested in streaming games would be to offer alternative streams featuring noted former college basketball players, celebrities, or other such attractive figures. Most of the major sports leagues offer alternative streams of broadcasts now, including the NFL on “Monday Night Football” and “Thursday Night Football,” the NHL for games on ESPN+, and the NBA for select contests on NBA League Pass.
Alternative streams like these offer fans a new, and often unique perspective on the sport they’re watching. They can allow users to feel more fully immersed in the event, and that would be an excellent way for streaming services to generate more traffic during the biggest sports affairs of the year, like the March Madness tournament.
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