What’s the next best thing to live-streaming actual 2018 NCAA March Madness Final Four games? For Twitter, it’s hosting a live video and chat hub with video commentary and real-time tweets for hoops fans to follow during the men’s college basketball championship.
Twitter, in partnership with Turner Sports, the NCAA and CBS Sports, on Saturday is tipping off the 2018 NCAA March Madness Men’s Final Four weekend with the launch of Final Four Watch Parties. The “live social-viewing experience” on Twitter, comprising analyst commentary, reactions and highlights from the games, will be produced by Turner Sports from the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas.
Of course, what Twitter would really love is to have live-streaming rights to the NCAA March Madness contests. Those belong to Turner and CBS, who are paying a bundle for them.
TBS is broadcasting Saturday’s semifinals and the April 2 National Championship. The games will be available through the Turner-operated NCAA March Madness Live service, including the NCAA’s website and 16 device platforms, available to subscribers of participating pay-TV providers.
However, the Final Four Watch Parties are an example of Twitter is able to monetize major events even if it doesn’t have broadcast rights: The Twitter “second-screen” feed is exclusively sponsored by burger chain Wendy’s.
The March Madness Final Four Watch Parties will stream live on Twitter starting Saturday, March 31, at 6 p.m. ET to coincide with the first game of the evening — pitting Michigan against supreme underdogs Loyola Chicago (only the fourth No. 11 seed to advance to the Final Four). That will be followed by the matchup of two No. 1 seeds, Kansas and Villanova, slated to tip 40 minutes after the conclusion of the first game. Twitter’s party will continue on Monday, April 2, at 9 p.m. ET for the National Championship game.
Twitter’s Final Four Watch Parties are positioned as a “companion” to TBS’s broadcasts. The Twitter hub will feature commentary from college basketball analysts Brendan Haywood, Candace Parker, NCAA.com’s Andy Katz, and reporters Allie LaForce and Dana Jacobson. The analysts will be in a booth and the video live-stream will be of them reacting and tweeting along with fans. Twitter also is teasing appearances by “surprise special guests.”
The Final Four Watch Parties will be available exclusively on Twitter to logged-in and logged-out users globally via live.twitter.com/ffwatchparties and via the NCAA’s official @marchmadness Twitter account.
Twitter’s live viewing parties will include sponsored content from Wendy’s — “the official hamburger of the NCAA” — and the fast-food chain also will have branding prominently featured on the social service.