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Let the (March) Madness Begin!

Relative to TV revenue it may still be small potatoes, but at an investor call last month, CBS CEO Leslie Moonves said that MMOD brought in $4 million in ad revenue last year and that CBS expected to double that this year, potentially increasing their overall profit tenfold. "While the profit of the product has increased sixfold, our costs year over year stayed flat," says Alex Riethmiller, a CBS spokesman. "And what makes this so great is that when CBS did the deal with the NCAA in 1999 and got these internet rights, nobody put much value on them at the time. So really this is all incremental dollars coming off of that deal." And CBS is feeling good about the fact that most all of the major sponsors from last year’s MMOD are back on board this year.

CBS hasn’t rested on MMOD’s laurels as a high-profile event by only upping the video bit rate and overall capacity, though. They’ve also delved into the process of making more content available through MMOD.

MMOD’s halftime shows are a prime example of this. Last year, in the afternoon window they consisted of pre-taped previews of that evening’s games. "It was pretty good but it wasn’t timely," says Ferrera. "And there was so much opportunity to talk to the audience that was watching the game."

So instead of seeing the pre-taped previews or the same halftime show as is on TV, people watching games online will be treated to a show that starts during when the first game hits halftime and ends when the last one leaves it during a particular timeslot of games. This show will be hosted by Jason Horowitz who will be joined by college coaches whose teams didn’t make the tournament to comment on what they’ve seen in that game, what they’d be saying if it were their team in the locker room, and what’s been going on across the tournament at large.

Also new this year will be the ability for users to stream live audio play-by-play of all of the games, even those for which the video is blacked out in your local area. This addition represents a highly visible signpost on the road to creating converged media companies. "Starting at the top of CBS, Leslie Moonves really talked to everybody about working together as a team across multiple media," says Ferrera. "In those conversations we learned that Westwood One not only has the rights to the tournament but also broadcasting individual games. So we’re able to get hold of those and provide a much better listening experience than if we were to just get the audio from a TV signal."

CBS Sportsline is poised to potentially surpass its many successes from a year ago with this expanded and enhanced experience. And it continues to lead the way as a prime example of the internet’s potential as a platform for reaching a massive audience. "The thing I’m most excited about is just the ability to handle a massive amount of traffic. I’m really, really interested about how many people we can really handle," says Ferrera. "And as these numbers continue to grow and rise, that’s getting the attention of everybody in the sports world. It’s really creating a groundbreaking situation for sports, sports rights, and the for the coverage of sports in general."

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