CBS: NCAA tourney ads nearly sold out

March Madness on Demand close to $30 mil in ad sales

NEW YORK -- With about two weeks to go before the start of the NCAA men's basketball tournament, CBS is nearly sold out of inventory and is approaching $30 million in ad revenue for March Madness on Demand, its Web video product that allows fans to stream each of the 60-plus tournament games the network televises.

According to CBSSports.com senior vp and GM Jason Kint, ad revenue for MMOD will increase more than 20% compared with last year's record $23 million haul.

CBSSports.com has once again signed on AT&T, Coke and Pontiac as presenting sponsors and has inked deals with close to 35 different brands (up from 30 last year). Among those advertisers is Comcast, which has committed to be the first sponsor of the "boss button," which enables at-work viewers to display a fake spreadsheet on their screens with a mouse click if their supervisor approaches while they're watching live games.

Demand has been as strong as in recent years despite a brutal economy and increased caution among online advertisers, Kint said. He believes the quality of the inventory -- along with the potential size of the MMOD audience -- combine to make the offering stand out during a recession.

"It's very unique," he said. "MMOD -- there is nothing quite like it. It's video, and advertisers say that it is challenging to find mass-reach video content that is predictable and premium."

Kint predicted that MMOD would exceed the record 4.7 million unique viewers who streamed live games last year, especially since CBS has expanded its distribution. In 2008, the network pushed the product across the Web, making it available on sites such as ESPN.com, Yahoo Sports and MySpace while dropping all registration requirements. This year the content also will be distributed on recent CBS acquisitions CNET and GameSpot, among others.

Plus, CBS does not anticipate extended wait periods for users to access live games. Kint said that the site has dropped its online "waiting room," which previously provided users with an estimate of how long they would have to wait during heavy-demand periods.

"We've increased capacity so much that it's no longer a necessary feature," he said.
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