CBS and Turner are opting to charge for their March Madness On Demand feature this year, and it will be rebranded as March Madness Live.
The way that the new system will work is that all games will air online as well as on all networks (TBS, TNT, CBS, and truTV) that they did last year. But here's the catch: if you have the TNT, TBS or truTV mobile apps, you won't have to pay anything, while all games on CBS.com will be free.
To add even more confusion to the system, the games will also be streamed on the TBS, TNT, and truTV websites, and you can access them for free, provided that your cable/satellite carrier offers the networks and is a supported provider of the app. If your carrier doesn't carry the networks, you'll have to pay a one-time $3.99 fee to access all of the games.
I really don't think this is a bad idea. Most cable providers carry TBS and TNT, and a little research indicates that the mobile/online apps work with Comcast, AT&T U-Verse, Verizon, and Cox, among others. This streaming idea is a variation on HBOGO and BTN2GO, both of which have mobile and online streaming that work when your cable company offers the channel and is supported by the app. BTN2GO notably doesn't have a deal with Comcast for their app yet, which locks many people in the Big Ten's footprint out of the streaming service.
I think a lot of people are going to go crazy over this, when in reality, it's not a huge deal at all. And besides, it's not as if Turner is charging $20 for streaming, or $3.99 per game. It's $3.99, one time. That's what, a Starbucks latte or a McDonald's value meal?
UPDATE: We received some more details on the pay feature from CBS. To watch one game at a time on the each station's website, all you need to do is authenicate your cable provider. Again, I reiterate: all games on CBSSports.com are free. If you want the video player that lets you bounce back and forth between games by clicking around, OR if you want the mobile app that will do the same thing, then you pay the $3.99. So pretty much, you're paying for the convenience of being able to click around quickly to the game you want.
[h/t: Fang's Bites]