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Metadata Key to NCAA March Madness Success, Says Turner Sports

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"By meta tagging any kind of video event, whether it's live or on-demand, you're making it more accessible to the user," says Peter Scott, vice president of emerging media at Turner Sports Interactive. He should know: Turner Sports is working with the NCAA and DigitalSmiths to meta tag all the action in the March Madness tournament. The result is March Madness On Demand, accessible through NCAA.com, where viewers can watch live coverage or zoom in on just the highlights that matter to them.

Turner has a high profile in online sports coverage, as it manages websites for the NCAA, NASCAR, and the PGA. Based in Atlanta, it works on the same infrastructure that supports CNN, Cartoon Network, and Adult Swim.

Not surprisingly, March is the most popular month for NCAA.com. For the first time, Turner Sports has created a video hub page on the site, where viewers can watch video from every event in the tournament. Because of the extensive meta tagging done for every game, viewers can see only the plays that matter to them--just the three-pointers, dunks, or highlight moments--if they wish.

Besides offering customized viewing options, extensive meta tagging also opens up a world of sales possibilities, says Scott. With meta tagged video, it's possible to make a hub site for a team, or sell premium pre-rolls on specific teams or activities.  

"It allows us, after an event has been meta tagged, to dream up as many products as we want," says Scott.

Meta tagging also leads to better search engine optimization. Sites get better referrals when search engines know exactly what's in a clip.

Turner's current work with NCAA.com is just the latest in its efforts to extensively break up and meta tag longer events. Working with DigitalSmiths, it began tests with Inside the NBA in January, 2010. It broke the show into sections by topic, allowing viewers to search and view only the parts they were interested in. It did similar tests with the PGA and NASCAR in 2010.

Along the way, the people at Turner learned that organization drives video usage. Extensive meta tagging and organizing lets sites build significantly larger audiences with the same size staffs. In the near future, Scott says, every box score in a game will have a video icon next to it.

"Meta tagging videos is what all of us in this business need to be doing," Scott says.

The next step, he says, is to bring the same experience to mobile devices. His team has tested it and knows that it works. Now, Scott is looking for the perfect event to offer it to the public.

As for NCAA.com, traffic is way up, thanks partly to meta tagging. March Madness on Demand enjoyed a 47 percent increase in visits for the first three rounds of the tournament. The website and mobile apps attracted 26.7 million visits from the start of the First Four to the end of the third round. In that time, the site streamed 10.3 million hours of live video.

Whether through live streams, apps, or meta tagged clips, Turner is driving viewership by making the March Madness more accessible. Expect other major events to follow suit.

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