For anyone who might not know, the biggest basketball tournament of the year is right around the corner, March Madness! I for one am very excited for the games to begin; however, what I was not excited about was Sunday’s bracket announcement show that revealed which teams would be playing each other in the first-round of action. Although I was extremely excited about the bracket coming out, I was not looking forward to having to sit around for 2 HOURS until all the teams were revealed. Enter the hero of my day: Twitter.
CBS has been hosting NCAA Selection Show since before most of us were born. It started out as a 30-minute show where the announcers would just inform its audience of the bracket layout. Then around 25 years ago, it was expanded to an hour-long format. This allowed for some reactions and analysis to be brought in by the broadcasters while keeping the show to a reasonable length. This year was the first year that the NCAA Selection Show was expanded to two hours, and the reaction was largely negative. It also changed its format from previous years; in the past, the bracket was released and analysis of the bracket followed. This year, a quarter of the bracket was released and analysis would follow before the release of the next quarter. Although some people enjoyed the longer format, the large majority of people believed that the show was unnecessarily long. Obviously, there are clear financial motives behind expanding the show to be as long as possible, but the reaction from the audience was not positive. The show had its lowest Nielsen Rating (“viewership rating”) since 1995 and it couldn’t edge out a “Little Big Shots” re-run for Sunday’s most viewed program at 7:00. This set the stage for Twitter to absolutely shock (and please) most of the audience.
CBS Selection Show overnight ratings (per @AustinKarp at TV 101)
2016: 3.7 (lowest in 20+ years)
— Richard Deitsch (@richarddeitsch) March 14, 2016
About 45 minutes into the 2-hour ordeal, an anonymous source tweeted out a picture of the bracket with the caption “Spoiler Alert: Leaked Bracket” (the twitter account was made private hours later). The tweet took Twitter by storm with #LeakedBracket peaking at over 100 mentions/minute. The pace at which this bracket spread from the source was incredible. The bracket reached St. Mary’s College of California, a team on the “bubble” waiting to see if they qualified for the tournament, over a half an hour before they were scheduled to find out on live TV. The team knew that they weren’t going to make the tournament well before they were supposed to, which has been argued as being good or bad for those players. It took around 40 minutes for one tweet (believed to have originated in the Kansas area) to become instantly viral, and spread as far West as the Coastal region of California (and probably farther).
— Jimmy Durkin (@Jimmy_Durkin) March 13, 2016
A similar story occurred for Mike Brey, Head Coach at Notre Dame, who said that his son texted him a picture of the bracket a half hour before he was supposed to know the identity of his first-round opponent. Seton Hall’s Head Coach, Kevin Willard, had already sent someone on his staff to download all available tapes of Gonzaga, their first-round opponent, before their name was announced on CBS. As a team’s seeding was announced on CBS, the team was shown on live TV, usually in an auditorium with hundreds of fans. In the beginning, teams were jumping out of their seats in joy, yelling in celebration with their fans. Towards the end, it was clear that some celebrations were “for show”, as they had found out about their position some time before, and had probably already celebrated. A couple teams elected not to celebrate at all, which I found particularly funny (at the expense of CBS).
Bracket leak guy is the hero America needed
— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) March 13, 2016
Thanks to that bracket leak, got my Des Moines travel booked before Kansas, Kentucky and Indiana fans bought every last thing.
— Kyle Tucker (@KyleTucker_CJ) March 13, 2016
Clearly there are many views of this “spoiler.” There are people who are happy that they were able to instantly see the bracket without watching the show at all. There are people like me who enjoy the Selection Show, but were unwilling to spend two hours watching, and stopped after the “leak.” And there were people who thought the leaked bracket ruined the whole experience of Selection Sunday. Regardless of your stance on the events, I think the #LeakedBracket, which will be a case-study in the near future, has some key takeaways relating to social media.
The first key takeaway from this leak is the supreme importance that security is playing in our modern society. In this age of social media, keeping a secret really is “easier said than done,” and I think this is an excellent example of this. On ESPN, an analyst sarcastically said that next year, the bracket is going to have to be protected to the extent that Oscar announcements are, with a full security detail. Although this was an off-the-cuff comment, it’s not that far off-base in light of recent events. Today’s society requires us to keep private information as secure as possible, as it is becoming drastically easier to rapidly spread information over the Internet through social media.
The final takeaway I had was about Twitter. Wow! Twitter is fast. It took just under 45 minutes for this tweet to blow-up on Twitter, spread a 100% accurate bracket with everyone around the nation, and ultimately cost CBS millions of dollars in lost advertising revenues (probably). For all the grief that Twitter has gotten over this past year about not being able to monetize its network, I think the pure speed at which it can disseminate information is one of the reasons why it will always be a viable entity, in one form or another.