March Madness is kicking off with its opening round game today, and CBS (s CBS) is getting ready to live stream all games online starting with the first round on Thursday. The network has already made $37 million and sold all of its ad revenue for March Madness On Demand, AdAge is reporting. However, other sites could also profit from the NCAA Men’s College Basketball Tournament, as almost half of its audience will follow games and scores online, according to a new report from Unicast.
As it turns out, March Madness is very much a two-screen experience for many viewers, with live streaming only being one of many parts to the puzzle. Eighty-three percent of its audience will watch it on TV, 44 percent will follow the tournament online and 10 percent will use a mobile device. Sports sites like ESPN.com (s DIS) and Yahoo Sports (s YHOO) should see a lot of traffic from fans trying to keep track of the scores, but the official CBS live stream at NCAA.com will see its fair share of users as well: 54 percent of the March Madness online and mobile audience actually wants to watch games in real time.
Unicast’s new 2010 NCAA Basketball Tournament Fever Report reveals that 58 percent of the March Madness online audience want to use the medium to keep track of scores while 49 percent want to watch game highlights online. Catching up on complete games after they air is something that only 19 percent are interested in. Most users said they will flock to ESPN.com (69 percent), followed by Yahoo Sports (42 percent), FoxSports.com (s NWS) (34 percent) and CBSSports.com (29 percent). The official CBS-powered NCAA.com site was on the mind of 26 percent of the respondents.
51 percent of the respondents don’t care about and won’t follow March Madness at all, which still leaves 49 percent ready to take work a little less seriously in the weeks to come. Out of those, 44 percent will go online. Put those pieces of pie into context, and you end up with the estimate that around 11.6 percent of U.S. adults are planing to tune into March Madness online. That’s a lot of eyeballs, even if not everyone follows through. Last year’s March Madness online coverage was seen by 7.52 million people, which generated a total of 8.6 million hours of live streaming video, according to CBS.
AdAge reported yesterday that CBS has sold as many ads online as on TV this year. Of course, TV ad revenue still outweighs online, which was estimated to be around $619 million for last year’s March Madness. Still, online revenue is up 20 percent, which validates CBS’s strategy to stream the games in real time without any of the restrictions NBC (s GE) imposed on its Olympic coverage this year.
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