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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