Team Stream: The Beauty of Being Biased

People like to hear what they want to hear.  A simple concept and the foundation for team stream broadcasts. Last year’s NCAA men’s basketball Final Four and National Championship game featured a national broadcast, as well as two different team stream broadcasts, for the first time ever. How effective was this? Well, if you look at the ratings it may appear as a failure, but there is a lot more to it than that.

Bleacher Report’s team stream broadcasts stem from their Team Stream app. The app customizes your content to give you a better user experience based on your favorite sports teams. These broadcasts are created to cater to a  specific fan base. They display custom graphics, music, show packaging, team centric replays and custom halftimes with school features.

This year’s National Championship was not only unique because of the team streams, but also because it was the first time a national champion was crowned on cable. The championship game was broadcasted on three different channels. TBS showed the national broadcast, TNT  showed the UNC team stream, and truTV showed the Villanova team stream.

team stream

Why would such a big sporting event switch from broadcast to cable? Money. In 2010, a 14-year/$10.8 billion deal was made between CBS and Turner. They are scheduled to rotate years hosting the championship through 2024. However, there is the option for adjustments to be made at their yearly meeting if they feel a need for change. After the sharp decline in rating from 2015 to 2016, there is definitely a lot to discuss.

The 2016 championship game averaged 10 million fewer viewers than the year prior. In terms of household ratings, they were down 37% which made for the lowest-rated national championship game ever. There were three outlets to view the game, and it was a great game that came down to the buzzer. There are multiple reasons for the drop off and it sure is not the team streams.

team stream basketball

CBS is available in roughly 116.4 million homes, while TBS is only in about 93.8 million homes. This just goes to show how broadcast ratings crush cable. This was the second most-viewed basketball game ever on cable (averaging 17.8 million viewers and peaking at 22.3 million) but it was a bust in terms of a national championship audience.

Outside of the broadcasting conversion, there are several other elements to look at. Both Final Four games leading up to the Championship were noncompetitive. It is known that lack of momentum will affect ratings, and it did.

Also, the year prior prior had a lot more headlines and star power. It was Duke and Wisconsin in the 2015 Championship, both filled with NBA talent and very large followings. 2016 was North Carolina and Villanova, North Carolina is a big name but Villanova has a fairly small fan base. Last but not least, there was a late tipoff. The game tipped-off at 9:19 PM Eastern Time and didn’t finish until after midnight.

There was some negative feedback about the team stream broadcasts but most of that was simply confusion. People would flip to the first channel that had the game on not realizing it was a customized broadcast and find it “biased”. However, as more and more people become familiar with this process, the more popular it will become. I believe that this is a very unique idea and great moving forward in sports broadcasting. The switch from network to cable really didn’t allow us to get a true measure of how effective it is.

Right now it seems like CBS is taking same outlook as myself. The CBS Sports Chairman had this to say in response to if CBS will be using team streams next championship game “We have some issues to work through, like our affiliates. But I think Team Stream has been innovative. It’s a good way to increase exposure and promote the final weekend.”

Ryan Herring

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