Blog Post Changes March Madness Game Plan: All Games Through Final Four, No Blackouts; Facebook

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In a switch from its previous policy, and will show all 63 of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship games from the March 20th kickoff through the Final Four on its ad-supported March Madness On Demand — no blackouts. (That doesn’t include the play-in game.) Until now, the network has protected its affiliates by maintaining roughly the same blackout rules online as it has on air and in its DirectTV out-of-market package, essentially keeping the “local” games TV only. It also has stopped coverage after the first 56 games. Both decisions were meant to protect the TV franchise.

The changes show some growth in the thinking of CBS (NYSE: CBS) Sports, the NCAA and the affiliates, aided by the success of previous years and some proof that most people who have a choice between watching March Madness on TV versus a computer will pick the former. (Then there are those of us who use a combination to watch multiple games at once.) Jason Kint, SVP and GM of told me: “It’s an across-the-board decision by all the partners that this is additive — not cannibalistic.” Kint said affiliates were part of the discussions. “I think they appreciate that the main consumers watching MMOD are doing it at work.” MMOD 2007 streamed 2,598,889 total hours live to 1,381,875 total unique users; for perspective, 132.7 million viewers tuned in at some point for the televised 2007 tournament. More after the jump.

Upgrade — but no HD: As for the actual experience, Kint says it should be better than last year. The revamped media player (pictured above) is wider (16:9 aspect ratio with 640 X 360 pixels) but still no high definition: “If you had to judge where our focus is right now, it’s on broader distribution. That’s priority over getting a small group of users HD quality.” The scale has been increased “dramatically” and the technology for the waiting room has been upgraded. As has been the case since MMOD switched from subscription to free in 2006, pre-registered VIPs will have preference for wait times; unregistered users go in a general admission queue.

Advertising: The presenting sponsors are Coca-Cola, Pontiac and AT&T (NYSE: T). All three are advertising on the broadcast side but the online sponsorships are standalone. Some ads will the same as those on TV; some are online only. When I asked about providing some local avails, Kint said the technology exists but there’s so much interest from national advertisers, that it hasn’t been an issue. He declined to say whether there is revenue sharing with the affiliates.

Facebook: Last year’s nifty YouTube deal — an official NCAA channel with highlights and more — was hampered by the inability to embed videos, keeping it from ever becoming truly viral. No word yet on whether that will change this year but Kint, who arrived after MMOD 2007, acknowledged the issue: “We’re doing this stuff, like everyone else, as rapidly as we can.” In fitting with the CBS Interactive emphasis on audience, Kint says “pieces of content from March Madness” will be distributed “as widely as we can. … We understand and everything we’re trying to do with the company is embrace disaggregation … We get that, we’re pushing as hard as we can across all fronts. At the same time, we have to manage our partnerships.” But a new deal with Facebook for the official bracket game ($10,000 prize) is the cornerstone of this year’s social media effort: “We want to have the largest bracket game on the web.” (No details about the finances of this deal, either.) Last year, without an official deal, Facebook’s various bracket games drew more than 2.6 million users. This official version wil be integrated with content, including links to live games. What does hope to get from Facebook? Kint: “Incremental audience and exposure, especially to users who and breath in Facebook all day.” It also will be available via CBS Sports Mobile.

13 Responses to “ Changes March Madness Game Plan: All Games Through Final Four, No Blackouts; Facebook”

  1. Doug Thompson

    I am so PISSED @ CBS !!!! Who gives a rats' ass about the East Regional? We are on the WEST COAST and want to watch the WEST REGIONAL…IF I wanted to watch the f—— east regional, I would live in the east!!! I get sick and tired of CBS and their claim to having ALL the coverage…

    American Idol and Dancing With the Stars offers more consistent coverage!!!

  2. Hey to all,

    Here’s a cool mobile application for NCAA basketball! I just discovered it, and it’s free. It provides live score updates for all the games in progress at a glance. All the info you want on your favorite teams – schedules, standings, breaking news, the whole works. The latest info is automatically pushed to the phone. Here is the video of the application:

    You can get it by visiting on your phone. The IPhone site is quite cool! –same URL

    Have fun following your game on the move

  3. UNC fan #1

    You really need to find a way to air more than one game at once, becasue all of us here are pretty disappointed that we can't watch the North Carolina sweet 16 game becasue the West Virginia game is on. I don't know how you can do it, but it would be alot better if you could work on that becasue so far, your television coverage has disappointed a lot of fans of many teams that work with me.

  4. Dan Boatright

    I discovered this site only recently and, as stated, I was able to watch both UNC tournament wins thus far. I live in Illinois and the folks here seem to prefer baseball. March Madness here is high school hoops. So now I can pretend I'm back on Tobacco Road. This is a terrific site.

  5. Dan Boatright

    I discovered this site only recently and, as stated, I was able to watch both UNC tournament wins thus far. I live in Illinois and the folks here seem to prefer baseball. March Madness here is high school hoops. So0 now I

  6. The NCAA March madness series are on the doors and sport lovers, as I'm one of them, are waiting without patience to live these hot events. No doubt, that there are hundreds if I dont say thousands who like these series and will do the possible to be on time. Me too unpatient and I'll attend. This time ,not as I already used to, I won't buy any tickets. I'll look for the cheapest ones,especially after a friend has recommended me a website where to compare tickts prices fo free. In case you need this comparison here is the link:
    <a href="">March Madness Tickets</a>
    If ou don't practice sport enjoy it!!!

  7. Bill Niemeyer

    The "MMOD 2007 streamed 2,598,889 total hours" stat sounds too low.

    Here's my math – 2.6 million hours over 56 games at 2.0 hours per game broadcast (including the hour it takes to play the last three minutes). That works out to an average viewership of 23,000 viewers.

    CBS reported in 2006 it had 268,000 concurrent users for a first round game (likely a peak but there was a wait list so about the likely average). 2007 had to be even higher.

    So 2007 sounds low. Evening/weekend use could be much less than daytime work use, but I wouldn't think it goes to effectively zero.