Higher ad sales bracket for CBS' Madness on Demand

Double '06 pace despite higher price

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

CBS' strategy of offering out-of-market games for 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. The games will be free again this year.

"To double sales is almost unheard of," he said. "This is all incremental ad revenue and is not cannibalizing ad sales for our broadcast coverage."

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

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 16, will be produced by CBS Sports. It will mark the first time CSTV will televise an NCAA tournament game.

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

There also will 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.