March Madness teams are streaming live on Facebook

March Madness is here and it’s live on Facebook.

Eighteen of the 64 teams competing in this year’s men’s college basketball tournament broadcast on Facebook Live this week, joining a widening publisher pool that has already absorbed news outlets, Major League Baseball teams and the Denver Broncos. With interest in the sport at its highest point in the season, these teams are providing fans a glimpse into the lives of players before and after their games.

Austin Peay State University may have been the most prominent user of Facebook video, going live 14 different times over the course of three days this week. The school had three people on the ground with the team to do live shots of various activities, from a pep rally, to the team boarding its charter flight, to them getting off the bus, to practices and warmups.

The Miami Hurricanes, meanwhile, plan to go live at least once every day for as long as their team is in the tournament. So far, it’s given fans a look at players during warmups and practices.

“Facebook has done a great job in creating an easy-to-use format for us to show great live content,” said Tim Brogdon, assistant director of digital strategy in the athletics department at the University of Miami. Brogdon is one of two people manning digital for most sports at Miami. He’s the one handling Facebook live video duties for the men’s basketball team during the tournament.

This ease-of-use in doing live video is incredibly appealing for university sports departments, which may not have the same resources as big media companies in producing original video content. The University of Oregon, for instance, has about five people that share digital duties for its sports teams, according to Andy McNamara, assistant athletic director for communications within the school’s athletic department. But it’s McNamara who has been manning Facebook Live duties with an iPhone 6S.

Oregon, which has been going live regularly since the Pac-12 tournament, is all-in on Facebook live video. The reach it offers is immense. For instance, a live video it put up of the team celebrating its Pac-12 championship has more than 100,000 views. At its peak, it was watched by 8,000 live viewers. The video’s total reach is more than 450,000 — 10 times the number of people that have actually liked the men’s basketball team’s Facebook page.

“We are not shying away from posting too much,” said McNamara. “This time of year people are hungry for that content.”

Live content is also helping schools grow audiences on Facebook. Total likes for Austin Peay’s Facebook page shot up 12.5 percent to 9,100 likes in the past three days alone. Engagements from fans was up 439 percent in the same time period, according to Joshua Jorgensen, assistant athletic director of external affairs within the Austin Peay athletics department. “Our largest audience was 18-24 year old men, which could really help in recruiting,” he said.

Before the tournament started, teams were encouraged by Facebook to use live video and the company regularly provides best practices to those coordinating such efforts on the platform. It’s easy to see why Facebook would want teams to be using live video. The format has the potential to turn Facebook into a legitimate second-screen platform around live sporting events, especially before and after the games.

“Facebook is making an effort to figure out what they can do better to help people keep their finger on Facebook, versus switching over to Twitter,” said Jorgensen. “This can help grow that engagement.”

Image via Aspen Photo / Shutterstock.com