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Original Issue

Hoops on the Sly

YOU KNOW thoseannual estimates of lost productivity in the workplace during March Madness? Itwas about $2 billion last year—a number goosed by's increasinglypopular March Madness on Demand (MMOD). The feature streams live video of allgames from the NCAA men's tournament, and the 4.8 million total unique viewersover the 10 days of games in 2008 was a jump of nearly three million from'07.

And with thisyear's tournament coverage starting on March 19 CBS president Leslie Moonvessaid ad revenue is "on track to break last year's revenue" of $23million. That was up from $4 million in 2006 and from $10 million in '07. MostMMOD viewers belong to advertising's most coveted demographic: 25- to54-year-old male college graduates with household incomes exceeding$75,000.

The CBS strategyhas been to make digital media a revenue producer, particularly in sports. In1999—when the network negotiated a $6.2 billion, 11-year extension of its dealwith the NCAA, which includes men's basketball (the extension began in2003)—CBS Sports president Sean McManus insisted that Internet rights beincluded. Even last year, when the network laid off more than 160 newsemployees and saw its net income fall 52%, CBS Sports was investing in itsonline infrastructure. Now CBS has partnered with Microsoft Silverlight—themedia player that handled NBC's streaming online Olympic coverage—to enhancethe quality of its video; Silverlight supports nearly triple the videoresolution of Windows Media Player.

The rise in MMODviewers has not cut into NCAA tournament TV ratings for CBS, in part becausemost of the online usage occurs during typical workday hours. MMOD is "alladditive, not cannibalistic," says general manager JasonKint. One thing that hasn't changed about March Madness on Demand? CBS againwill offer a boss BUTTON, which swiftly hides the game coverage in favor of amock spreadsheet; in 2008 viewers hit that button 2.5 million times.

Rise in unique viewers for March Madness on Demand from 2007 to '08

$13 million
Rise in ad revenue for the same period