Sales double for Madness on Demand

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NEW YORK -- After a standout run in last year's NCAA men's basketball tournament, CBS looks for a repeat this month with its March Madness on Demand package.

CBS' strategy of offering out of market games free was one of the year's biggest live Internet events, with 19 million video streams in an ad-supported environment. CBS Sports president Sean McManus said Tuesday that ad sales for March Madness on Demand have exceeded expectations and are double what they were last year. Once again, the games will be free.

"To double sales is almost unheard of," he said. That's all incremental and not cannibalizing CBS' wall-to-wall coverage of the tournament on broadcast TV and, for the first time this year, on cable sibling CSTV.

CBS' coverage begins at noon EST on Thursday, March 15, with first-round doubleheaders and continues with only a two-hour break until abut midnight EST, then does it again the next day.

Ad sales are running strong, with about 95% of available inventory sold, said John Bogusz, executive vp sports sales and marketing at CBS. That's ahead of last year's pace with a high single-digit percentage increase in the average price for a 30-second spot. CBS is getting about $100,000 a spot for an early-round game and up to $1.2 million for the championship game, which will be held April 2 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

CBS Sports executive vp Tony Petitti said that there will be several innovations this year, including a slow-motion camera that allows greater focus in the background and a type of "loose 3D effect" as well as the devotion again this year to switch from game to game at an increased pace in the early rounds.

There will also be more innovations for the coverage at CBS SportsLine, including double the bandwidth capacity, a video screen that is double the size it was last year and a live halftime show. In a bow to the fact that there will be lots of at-work viewership, there will again be the so-called "boss button" that changes the game to a spreadsheet at a push.

CSTV, the college sports channel owned by CBS, will carry two first-round out-of-market games during the coverage. Both games, which will air March 15 and March 16, will be produced by CBS Sports. It will mark the first time CSTV will televise an NCAA tournament game.
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