Millions Tune in for March Madness Online Live Stream

Three million people used the March Madness On Demand video player to catch the first round of the NCAA Men’s College Basketball Championship online yesterday, according to a press release sent out by CBS Sports today. Sports fans watched a total of 3.4 million hours of live streaming video and audio online yesterday, 20 percent more than in 2009. And the most-watched game even saw 50 percent more traffic than last year’s most popular first day face-off.

We’ll leave it to others to speculate how much of a productivity killer March Madness is, but the fact that CBS saw its biggest spike in traffic in the hour after 2pm Eastern — 533k streaming hours for the full hour, with a peak of 147k streaming hours between 2:45 and 2:59 p.m. — suggests that the championship may actually be an ideal lunch time companion, at least for us West Coasters.

Yesterday’s most popular game happened to be the match between Florida and BYU, with a total of 521k hours of streaming video and audio. Those new audience records are another validation for CBS’s strategy to air full live games without access restrictions online, a strategy that’s also been paying off with advertisers, who have spent a total of $37 million on ads for March Madness On Demand this year.

However, one should take CBS’s claim that this was “the largest single day of traffic for a live sport event on the Internet” with a grain of salt: The 2008 Olympics had a huge online worldwide online audience, with 1.6 million viewers tuning in simultaneously through the Chinese P2P video client PPLive during the opening ceremony alone.

Related content on NewTeeVee: Where to Watch March Madness Online

Related content on GigaOm Pro: Connected Consumer Tuned In to TVs in Q4 (subscription required)


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