March 17, 2006

It’s Madness: Internet Hit with Record Traffic

NEW YORK -- March Madness gripped the Internet on Thursday, with more than 1 million video streams carried in the first day of CBS' free on-demand out-of-market games.

Thursday kicked off the NCAA men's basketball tournament, one of CBS' highest-profile sports packages and one that takes over much of the network for three weeks through early April. But the online portion was expected to gain lots of attention this year as well with the offering of out-of-market games via CBS SportsLine.

Businesses, which often complain about the lost productivity because of the fine art of bracketology, had even more to be worried about this year with the free streaming via the Internet. Those fears seem to have come true with what CBS said was a record-breaking day for a sports event streamed live on the Internet.

CBS served more than 268,000 simultaneous streams of first-round games Thursday, pushing its first-day total to more than 1.2 million by 6 p.m. EST.

"The numbers and positive feedback we have seen from our users today are extremely encouraging," CBS Digital Media president Larry Kramer said.

Meanwhile, the TV coverage was affected by a bomb scare at Cox Arena in San Diego, where several of the games are being held. The Marquette-Alabama game was delayed more than an hour, with the other games delayed as well.

In other March Madness news, Time Warner Cable announced a deal with CBS and its subsidiary CSTV to offer condensed games on-demand during the tournament. The package includes 63 condensed games, at the price of 99 cents. It follows a similar deal with Apple iTunes for condensed games that was announced Thursday.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter