March Madness online has strong start

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UPDATED 3:43 p.m. PT, March 21, 2008

RELATED: NCAA dominates Thursday

NEW YORK -- Let the madness begin. CBS Sports said Friday that the first day of March Madness on Demand kicked off swimingly, with a jump of 122% in traffic compared to the first
day of the men's basketball tournament last year.

The 1.7 million unique visitors at CBSSports.com or any of its 200 affiliate sites Thursday is more than the total unique visitors for last year's entire tournament. There were 789,045 unique visitors last year.

This year, CBSSports.com has partnered with a number of Web sites including ESPN.com, SI.com, Yahoo Sports and Facebook for a link to the on-demand player. This year for the first time as well the entire men's basketball tournament will be available online with no local blackouts.

CBS also said that there were 571,297 early registrations -- ahead of projections and 22% up from last year -- that would require less waiting time before being able to see a game.

The so-called Boss Button, which when pressed displays a spreadsheet, seems to have resonated with the mostly at-work audience. There were 1.2 billion clicks of the button, although there were no figures available for 2007.

Though many tournament games are played during daytime hours, CBS has not received any complaints from companies concerned that March Madness could prove a drain on workplace productivity. Jason Kent, senior vp and general manager at CBSSports.com, noted that CBS actually provides filtering options on its site should an employer's IT department need to block the games, but doesn't keep any statistics on how many avail themselves of that technology.

"There are people in the marketplace that are choosing to block it, but our numbers are through the roof and we haven't had any complaints passed on to us," Kent said.
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