03.23.2007 08:00 AM
CBS pumps up March Madness on demand

CBS Sportsline's March Madness on Demand (MMOD) found its business model last year after switching from a subscription to an ad-supported service. This year, the network is proving that sports television on the Web is ready for primetime.

In 2006, MMOD supplied 200,000 simultaneous feeds with 80G of bandwidth to 1.3 million online viewers. This year, the service is offering 300,000 feeds with 160G of bandwidth. The viewer's screen size has been increased by 50 percent (480 x 360 pixels) with an increased bit rate (from 400Kb/s to 450Kb/s).

About 470,000 fans signed up in advance for VIP access, a method CBS used to predict the number of viewers that might access the games. The coverage includes live, streaming video for the first three rounds of the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship games except those subject to CBS Network blackout rules.

Also new this year are live radio broadcasts. The MMOD online player includes the capability to play streaming live audio from Westwood One's radio feeds of the first 56 games of the championship. The service will also include a live halftime show featuring Jason Horowitz and analysts including St. John's head coach Norm Roberts and Seton Hall head coach Bobby Gonzalez.

The growth of MMOD popularity with viewers is also paying off for the parent network. Leslie Moonves, CBS CEO, told a recent media investment conference that MMOD had a six-fold increase in profitability, with ad revenues growing from $4 million to $10 million without any significant new costs.

In another sports development with CBS, the network has acquired MaxPreps, an online high school sports network. Financial terms weren't disclosed. The business will become part of CBS-owned College Sports Television.

MaxPreps.com provides information on nearly 80,000 nationwide high school football games and more than 500,000 basketball games played each year.

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