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NCAA's Big Dance Available On Small Screens


Now, if you want to watch March Madness, there's no shortage of options. They old fashioned way, of course, at home on your TV at home, or you stream it on your computer at work.

But as NPR's Sami Yenigun reports, the hot ticket this year is streaming on your phone. There's an app for that.

SAMI YENIGUN, BYLINE: First things first, for most fans the best way to see a game is from the stands. That's a given. But if you're like Ryan Guthrie, an Indiana Hoosiers fan living in a city far from home, you've got to have a Plan B.

RYAN GUTHRIE: I would always prefer to have a big screen, a big high definition television screen, if I can. But I mean I guess I'm just old school.

YENIGUN: For past few years, Guthrie and his fellow IU fans have come to watch Indiana games at the Union Pub in Washington, D.C. they're draped in red, double fisting chicken wings and beer.


YENIGUN: These guys are pumped that Indiana beat their rival Purdue in the last game of the regular season. And then there's Mike White from Madison, Wisconsin. He's new school. He's watching on his phone while waiting for the subway.

MIKE WHITE: I knew I was going to be in D.C. with my family so I said, well, I'll download the app so I can see the game while I'm out there, because I didn't expect there to be any place that would have it.

YENIGUN: White says he was at home watching the Badgers play on TV and he saw a commercial telling him he could stream games on his mobile device. You know, there have been a lot of those lately.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Did you just check the game on your phone?


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Only AT&T network let's your iPhone download three times faster.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: And only on Verizon's 4G LTE Network.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: T-Mobile's super fast 4G smartphones from the game right to you...

YENIGUN: The push to watch games on your phones is coming from a few places. TV Networks, cell phone service providers and the NCAA are all highlighting the Big Dance on a small screen. Dawn Perry is a director of Applications for T-Mobile. She says that there are two reasons that mobile streaming is especially hot this year.

DAWN PERRY: One, the smartphones that we have are getting larger screens - higher definition screens, so it's really fun now to watch on your phone. The second thing is the 4G network. And that means you get better picture quality, you get better sound quality if you're listening to radio.

YENIGUN: Streaming the game itself isn't the only way to enjoy sports on a phone. Twitter chitchat around live sports grows louder by second, and bracket apps abound in mobile app stores. This year, ESPN doesn't own the rights to mobile stream March Madness games. But through apps like Watch ESPN and ESPN ScoreCenter, they're still trying pull eyeballs towards phone screens.

MICHAEL BAYLE: There often to us, the very first screen many of us look at in the morning before we turn on NPR, for instance. And often the last screen we look at night before perhaps even tucking in the loved ones.

YENIGUN: That's ESPN General Manager of Mobile Michael Bayle. He says mobile's the fastest growing platform for ESPN with over 20 million unique visitors monthly and counting. ESPN now calls mobile phones their first screen, which means that they design all of their coverage around how sports look on a phone.

BAYLE: And then we extract from those principles to include how we then program to both the PC, the television and even print experience.

YENIGUN: This year, the Madness will tip off at 14 courts across the country, and will be watched from more places than ever before.

Sami Yenigun, NPR News.

INSKEEP: It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.