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March Madness Dunks Record Digital Views in Early Play — with Apparently No Glitches

Turns out somebody can deliver a high-volume digital video event without any noticeable snafus.

The web and mobile NCAA March Madness Live service, managed by Turner Sports, registered record video streams and engagement for the first three days (Tuesday-Thursday) of the 2014 basketball championship series, as several upsets and close games drove sports fans to tune in to the live action.

All told, NCAA March Madness Live over the three-day period served 21 million live video streams, up 42% versus last year, and more than 4 million hours of live video (up 18%), according to Turner, citing data from Omniture, Conviva and Bango.

The tournament also has performed well on the tube: On TV, viewership jumped to a 23-year high for the first full day of play across CBS, TBS, TNT and truTV, per Nielsen.

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It’s worth noting that even with all-time-high usage, the hoops video streams seem to have worked as advertised — with no outages or other problems reported. In recent weeks, three Internet video services have been swamped by surging demand: ABC’s WatchABC app went dark during the Academy Awards and HBO Go suffered outages for the finale of “True Detective,” while some Kickstarter donors had problems downloading the “Veronica Mars” movie.

Meanwhile, two other recent big sporting events — Fox Sports’ Super Bowl XLVIII and NBC Sports’ 2014 Winter Olympic Games — delivered millions of live-streaming video views without user complaints.

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The NCAA March Madness Live service experienced especially big growth on tablets and smartphones, with live streams up 87% and viewing hours up 53% during the first three days compared with the same period last year. (Turner did not break out number of streams by platform.)

NCAA March Madness Live is available at NCAA.com, Turner’s Bleacher Report and CBSSports.com. Apps are available via on Apple’s iTunes App Store — currently the No. 1 free apps for iPad and iPhone — Google Play, the Amazon Appstore and Windows Store. In addition, the games are live streaming on the websites and apps for TNT, TBS and truTV and websites of participating pay-TV providers.

The top five most-watched games across digital platforms over the first three days of the tournament, based on live video streams, were: Dayton vs. Ohio State (4.588 million), Harvard vs. Cincinnati (2.742 million), St. Joseph’s vs. Connecticut (1,432 million), North Dakota State vs. Oklahoma (1.365 million) and Albany vs. Florida (1.341 million).

March Madness also has played well on social media. The first three days of the tournament generated more than 1.1 million comments on Twitter, an increase of 39% over the first three days last year, according to Nielsen’s SocialGuide.

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