March Madness is here and your bracket is set. Hopefully, your bracket hasn’t been busted yet. But behind all the excitement is a growing audience eager to watch the games on a mobile device. In fact, we’re seeing lately that with many major sporting events like the Super Bowl and Sochi Winter Olympics. Mobile streaming provides plenty of potential to connect with a diverse audience.

Of course, it can also be a challenge. Events like March Madness come with potentially hundreds of thousands of users in a matter of a few days, and with it, the data comes pouring in. For publishers, the ability to take action on that data in real time is a key to engaging large-scale mobile streaming audiences.

And that’s why March Madness is an interesting example.

This year, 67 games will be available for streaming via mobile app and desktop. The potential for a massive audience is certainly there. But the hard part of is retaining and engaging that audience and maximizing advertising strategy.

Real-time analytics help simplify the data analysis process and maximize app engagement, which is especially important considering publishers may only have a two-hour game during which to capitalize. Here are a few reasons why real-time analytics makes all the difference difference in app engagement around large-scale sporting events like March Madness:

1. A Smooth Launch Is Key

Mobile apps created for large-scale sporting events don’t enjoy drawn-out beta-testing periods. So at game time, publishers see a huge influx of traffic to the app and an increase in downloads. That can be both a blessing and a curse.

On the plus side, many people are using your app, but this could potentially be the first time your app has handled a massive traffic influx. And functionality is essential to a successful launch. Some studies suggest that nearly 75 percent of users won’t touch an app that consistently crashes. Thus, there’s real value in a powerful real-time analytics solution that can quickly detect issues.

With an event like March Madness, the audience will likely grow over the next few weeks, and isolating and fixing issues on the fly will be essential in retaining viewers.

2. Maximizing Engagement

Real-time analytics can also help boost app engagement in several ways. Analytics provides publishers with a clear map of where people are in the app flow and how they got there. This lets publishers know which screens and experiences to optimize. More traffic gets more attention. Conversely, with under-performing screens, it might be time to tweak messaging or optimize content.

Plus, real-time data puts publishers in the best position to give the audience the best content. Publishers will be able to see which games, highlight videos, or post-game stories are being read, watched, and shared via social media. In turn, they can use this data to feature the most engaging content more prominently. Every year, compelling storylines develop during the NCAA tournament, and with real-time analysis, publishers can see which stories are developing and maximize views on them.

3. Minute-to-Minute Ad Strategy

Here’s a scenario: The big game turns out to be a blowout. If that’s the case, your active streaming viewership will likely take a hit. That’s why it’s important for publishers to gather real-time data about ad impressions, especially with something like a March Madness game with a two-hour window for displaying ads.

With games playing simultaneously during the tournament, a publisher must have the power to maximize ad impression. For instance, if the game is going into double overtime, a publisher can capitalize on viewer engagement and rely on more in-house advertisements, while reserving sponsored ads. Conversely, if it looks like the game might get out of hand early, a publisher can schedule more frequent sponsor ads before seeing big declines in the streaming audience.

Maximizing engagement and ad impressions both start with real-time data, especially with events like March Madness, where the short, two-hour window of opportunity doesn’t leave room for errors. As more people turn to mobile streaming to watch sporting events, it’s imperative that publishers utilize real-time analytics to capitalize on user engagement. In a tight game or contest, real-time data allows publishers to leverage ad inventory based on user engagement, something that’s great for down-to-the-wire games.

Streaming video is something that’s definitely here to stay, and outside of the NCAA Tournament, this summer’s 2014 World Cup will be the next great example of mobile streaming—but on a global stage.

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