CBS calls Web broadcast a slam dunk
Internet sports site says as many as 2 million videos of the Big Dance were streamed through new free video service.

NEW YORK ( - If the early numbers are any indicator, CBS SportsLine says its Internet broadcast of the Division I men's NCAA basketball tournament was a blowout.

During the first 24 hours, over 2 million videos of the so-called Big Dance had been streamed to viewer's computers through the March Madness on Demand service, watching such tournament slugfests as Boston College's double overtime win over Pacific.

This year's 2006 men's NCAA basketball tournament maked the first time college hoops fans were able to watch games online for free.
This year's 2006 men's NCAA basketball tournament maked the first time college hoops fans were able to watch games online for free.
SportsBiz SportsBiz Column archive Sports Illustrated email Chris Isidore

"Overall, it went extremely well and according to plan - about as good as we could have hoped," Steve Snyder, the general manager of CBS SportsLine told

While that number may include the same hoops fanatic who logged off but returned for the Gonzaga's victory over Xavier later that night, the company said yesterday's figures marked an Internet viewership record for a live entertainment or sporting event.

"We're still tallying everything up and it will take a few days," said Snyder. "There have been very few big events like this to hold a ruler next to."

Normally charging a $19.95 subscription fee for the on demand product, this year CBS SportsLine allowed viewers to watch almost any game for free. On-demand viewers did not have access to games broadcast on their local CBS-TV affiliate.

Those individuals who registered early for access to the games reportedly had no difficulties accessing the tournament, according to the company. But as many as 150,000 viewers were relocated to virtual waiting rooms to see the games in progress, waiting as much as an hour in some cases.

CBS SportsLine would not say how many people had already pre-registered for access to the online offering, but Joe Ferreira, vice president of programming for CBS SportsLine, told in an earlier interview that the site was set up to handle between 400,000 and 1 million pre-registrations by the time the tournament started midday Thursday.

A few technical glitches were reported during the online broadcasts including a broken audio feed, according to the company.

The on-demand offering has been viewed as a bold experiment by CBS SportsLine and its parent company CBS (up $0.38 to $24.60, Research) to see how much advertising revenue a free online broadcast of the highly watched event could bring in.

Prior to the start of the tournament Ferreira would not disclose the amount of advertising revenue the games were expected to provide, but he said that all available ad slots were sold out.

With an additional 16 first-round games scheduled for Friday afternoon and evening, CBS SportsLine's Snyder was optimistic going ahead, noting that Friday could be an even bigger day in terms of the number of streamed videos.

"Thursday's traffic could be eclipsed by word of mouth," said Snyder. "Today (Friday) could conceivably break yesterday's record."

CBS SportsLine is scheduled to broadcast the first 56 games of the tournament, which would include every game leading up to the Elite Eight.


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