Get your March Madness fix via Media Center

If you’re obsessed with college hoops and you have a PC with Vista Home Premium or Ultimate, you might want to check out the new College Hoops feature (complete with interactive bracket).

The Microsoft/CBS joint venture is pretty easy to miss. You have to go to the Media Center main menu, click the Sports strip, then choose Sports Channel. A slightly clunky install process asks whether you want to trust to add a Sports Channel link to your Program Library list. (Never heard of ’em, but OK, I guess. That’s not a good user experience.) If you say yes, you go straight to the Sports Channel main menu. The screen below shows a clip playing in the central pane; click the OK button to zoom it to full screen:


A link at the bottom of the screen launches the interactive bracket, which is indeed a cool way to browse the schedule in each of the four NCAA regional tournaments and tune in for some commentary and interviews from Use the arrow keys and the OK button to move through the brackets.


I was pretty underwhelmed with the quality of the video clips, which were fuzzy and notably worse than standard-def TV. They looked tolerable in their small window on a 20-inch monitor, but when I blew them up to full screen on a 24-inch monitor the flaws were noticeable. That’s fine if you’re catching up with the action on a break at work, but not so fun if you’ve connected your PC to a big-screen TV.

Don’t bother if you’re using a Media Center extender; you’ll be stymied by the need for Flash (which doesn’t stream to extenders). Likewise, you can fuggedaboutit if you’re running the Windows 7 beta.

Eventually (sooner rather than later, I hope), this stuff will be commonplace and quality will be greatly improved. Microsoft showed at last summer’s Olympics that it could deliver very high content using Silverlight. If this feature had been built using a similar technology, it would be irresistible. Maybe next year.

3 thoughts on “Get your March Madness fix via Media Center

  1. This isn’t really relevant to me (I’m in the UK) but do you thing this is just the beginning with a bigger push for Win7? After all Vista is essentially dead from a continued development point of view.

    With the buzz around windows 7 maybe Microsoft could sell the concept to content providers which they never managed in Vista and also bring it to some other parts of the world!

  2. Pable_paul, interesting question. I disagree that Vista is “essentialy dead from a development POV.” Most apps written for Win7 will also run on Vista. With an installed base of 100 million++, developers would be crazy to ignore it.

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