March Madness Sets Standard for Online Sports

By Marie Morris,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 19, 2009 1:42 PM CDT
March Madness Sets Standard for Online Sports
Tennessee's Tyler Smith gets stretched before practice at the men's NCAA college basketball tournament Thursday, March 19, 2009, in Dayton, Ohio.   (AP Photo/Al Behrman)

If you're reading this with an NCAA tournament game streaming live in another browser tab, you're in good company: In 2008, nearly 5 million people watched March Madness online, reports the Chicago Tribune. The tipping point between novelty and mainstay came 4 years ago, when CBS made access free, setting an example that revolutionized online sports coverage.

CBS' ad revenue soared after it stopped charging for access, creating a model for the likes of the Olympics on NBC. "NBC showed you can augment the TV experience and enhance it with online coverage," said a Nielsen exec. And even in a tough economy, March Madness is an increasingly beefy cash cow. Said a CBS VP: "When you look at a really great brand, like the NCAA tournament, the advertisers will come to the table."
(Read more CBS stories.)

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