The final tally is in — CBSSports.com’s internal numbers show that 7.52 million unique visitors used the NCAA March Madness on Demand video player during the 2009 men’s basketball tournament, up 58 percent over the 4.76 million counted last year. Last year’s total was eclipsed at the end of the first four days, when CBSports.com claims it had 5.6 million uniques. Some other stats:
— The CBS (NYSE: CBS) site delivered 8.6 million hours of live steaming video and audio — mostly video, I’m told — between Selection Sunday on March 15 and April 6, when the University of North Carolina claimed the title in an anti-climatic game. (Most of that came in the first four days: 6.5 million hours.) That’s an increase of 58 percent, very close to the increase for the first day over last year.
— Not in the official release, but nearly half of video users opted for the “high-quality” video player using Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) Silverlight over the standard player from Windows Media.
— Online viewing routinely starts with a bang given that the first two days are also workdays for most people and that’s also when the largest number of fans have a vested interest. Online use drops after office hours and on weekends, when TV is an option, and as the field narrows. This year was no exception: media delivered for the semifinal and championship games totaled 515,000 hours compared with 2.8 million hours on the first day alone.