March Madness is coming to Apple TV. Apple held a presentation in Los Angeles on Monday where Turner Sports announced that its NCAA March Madness Live app would be available on the Apple TV this Thursday, in time for the college basketball playoffs, which kick off March 15.
The biggest feature, which is exclusive to the Apple TV experience: the ability to watch two games simultaneously via a split screen. NCAA Digital executives Hania Jarrah Poole, VP & GM of Business Operations, and Lisa Estrin, Senior UX Lead, demonstrated how viewers could toggle between two games, seamlessly tuning in the audio of one while silencing the other and vice versa.
The app, which is also rolling out on Amazon Fire TV, Roku players, and TVs, also includes features such as key moments, game highlights, recaps of old games, and complete game schedules. It’s also compatible with the Apple Watch, on which it can deliver updates and alerts. Users will still need to prove they have a pay-TV subscription in order to use the app.
Poole noted that last year, 180 million people watched March Madness and that “the larger the screen, the more (fans) watch.” She went on to praise the Apple TV as being “perfect for that shared experience.”
A shared, communal experience was the underlying theme of the afternoon, where presentations were made by the Washington Post, which will live-stream the Democratic debate on its app this Wednesday; the gonzo news brand Viceland; Made2Measure (M2M), which both produces original content related to fashion and design, and streams licensed films; Kitchen Stories Cookbook, a cooking app; and Sketchparty TV, a game that lets players face off against each other drawing sketches.
Apple is making a big push for its new Apple TV, which launched last October and features Siri voice activation and universal search. But it’s content that will set it apart, which is why Apple is so bullish on its app inventory. There are over 3,600 apps available for Apple TV, and Apple is intent on showcasing the most compelling ones as a way to win over the living room. The company is focussing on both big brands, like the Washington Post and Turner Sports, and smaller, independent companies like Kitchen Stories Cookbook, which was started by two German college graduates, two years ago; and SketchpartyTV, which was founded by Matt Braun.
Braun, who is the sole employee at his company, lives in Ohio and said he developed the Apple TV version of his app in just five weeks, and designed the entire interface on a flight from Detroit to Seattle.