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Millions Tune in for March Madness Online Live Stream

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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 (s CBS) 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)

5 Responses to “Millions Tune in for March Madness Online Live Stream”

  1. My company, Unicast (, just conducted a national survey of March Madness fans to find out how people will follow the tourney. Unicast’s 2010 NCAA Basketball Tournament Fever Report found almost half (44%) of fans plan to go online, and of those 54% want to watch games live from the Web while 10% will follow coverage on a mobile device. While that’s great news for CBS as the sole provider via MMOD, there’s a catch – was a distant fourth (just 29%) in the minds of consumers who planned on following coverage online, behind ESPN and Yahoo (much like with NBC and their recent Winter Olympics coverage).

    CBS has a lot of upside to make even more money on their ad inventory around this event: Create more brand awareness to combat the inherent user base that sites like ESPN and Yahoo! Sports already have. And innovate their ad formats and offer advertisers a premium experience to reach consumers (and charge a premium for prime real estate). I know I’ll be on giving them some impressions, and will have my finger ready to hit the “Boss Button” the entire time.

    I wrote more in a Unicast Blog Post:

    Full Unicast Press Release and Survey: