Why Does the March Madness App Have to Suck Every Other Year?

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I’m a huge college sports fan in general, but the one that hooked me first was college basketball. I grew up in Memphis during the heyday of what was then Memphis State, now the University of Memphis, basketball, so becoming a fan of the home team was pretty natural. My parents and I rarely missed a game on TV or radio and there was nothing that could top one of the best championship tournaments in all of sports- March Madness.

Between work, family and keeping up with pro basketball’s Memphis Grizzlies and two NCAA teams, LSU (my alma mater) and Memphis (still the home team), my time for watching is a lot more limited than it used to be. But I still make time for March Madness.

Even when neither of my teams are in it, I still love the drama of nail-biters and Cinderella runs, especially in the first two rounds. The first two days of the tourney are my favorite sporting event of the year because of this. Thankfully, one of my Tigers made it in this season, with LSU making the field as an 8 seed. Memphis just missed out and is in the NIT, but I’m glad to be able to watch them both a few more times.

Because of my time at work and on the road and the fact that the first round games start at midday on Thursdays and Friday (actually Friday and Saturday this year due to the COVID bubble), I usually rely on the March Madness app to be able to watch all the action. The NCAA has been offering free streaming for several years now, with a web interface starting in the mid-2000s and eventually apps as modern smartphones and tablets gained popularity.

While I appreciate the ability to watch on the go, what I don’t understand is the wild inconsistency with the app from year to year. Why remove features from an app that’s available every season? For example, some years the March Madness app will offer the choice of the TV broadcast feeds from CBS and the TBS networks and the Westwood One radio feed. This is a great option for when you need to listen while doing something else on your device, can’t watch the screen, or when you are in a low signal area.

There was no March Madness last year due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the app had radio feed streaming the previous season. This year, it’s gone again. It seems like it disappears every other year for some unknown reason. The developers also didn’t add compatibility with iOS 14’s new video multitasking feature, so there is no way to watch or listen while doing anything else. You either watch the video while doing nothing else with your phone, or you get nothing.

Add in the extra 15 second commercial spots that you are forced to watch when you start or switch games, and you have an app that’s needlessly frustrating. It seems like the devs figure this out and fix the issues every year or two and add the radio features and multitasking back in. And then they take them away again. I know I’m ranting about first world problems here, but I just don’t understand removing features from an app, only to add them back and remove them AGAIN. It just doesn’t make any sense.

After watching video of the opening game for a few minutes today and confirming that multitasking and the radio feeds weren’t available, I have switched over to trusty TuneIn Radio. They offer the Westwood One radio broadcasts every year. It’s not as convenient as the March Madness app having everything in one place, but it works.

We are driving through the mountains on our way home from a Spring Break vacation and there’s no way to stream video through this part of the trip. The radio feed works just fine. I am also posting this using my iPhone from the passenger seat, which I also wouldn’t be able to do while using the NCAA Tournament’s official app.

Hopefully the March Madness devs will put the radio feeds back and add video multitasking next season. If so, I’ll watch all those extra ads without complaint. Until then, I’ll probably be listening to TuneIn a lot more than watching the tourney while on the go.

Anyone else out there watching March Madness today? Who’s your team? Who do you have coming out on top in your bracket? Let me know in the Comments section below or on Twitter @iPadInsightBlog.

James Rogers

I am a Christian husband and father of 3 living in the Southeastern US. I have worked as a programmer and project manager in the Commercial and Industrial Automation industry for over 19 years, so I am hands on with technology almost every day. However, my passion in technology is for mobile devices, specifically Apple's iOS and iPadOS hardware and software. My favorite is still the iPad.

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