Basketball Tournaments Mean Online Eyeballs

Traffic to FinalFour.net skyrocketed 167 percent during the first week of the NCAA Tournament, making it the fastest growing domain among home Internet users, according to Nielsen//NetRatings.

The official site for the college basketball championship, FinalFour.net, had traffic totaling 300,000 unique visitors during the week ending March 18, compared to only 112,000 unique visitors for the previous week. More men than women logged onto the site with a 65/35 gender split. Surfers spent an average of 6 minutes at the site, with most visitors checking out the tournament bracket page.

“The Web has gone a long way to fuel the frenzy around March Madness with sites such as FinalFour.net providing fans scores and game updates on their alma mater or favorite teams,” said Allen Weiner, vice president of analytical services at NetRatings. “With 64 teams playing in venues across the country, the Internet’s real-time capability to deliver play-by-play action is an important value proposition. Instead of waiting for the evening news to serve up results, surfers can just click their mouse to get the latest highlights.”


Top Sports Sites
Week Ending 3/17/01
Rank Site % Audience
Reached
Unique
Users

(000)
1. espn.com 6.4% 6,116
2. sportsline.com 4.1% 3,935
3. cnnsi.com 1.9% 1,861
4. nascar.com 1.6% 1,484
5. fansonly.com 1.0% 933
6. nba.com 1.0% 921
7. sportingnews.com 0.9% 890
8. rivals.com 0.7% 657
9. finalfour.net 0.6% 549
10. nfl.com 0.6% 534
Source: PC Data Online

But as with most highly publicized events with an online following, Web surfers may not always find their browsing easy going. Keynote has been tracking the availability of sports sites during the tournament, and found most have fared quite well, with the exception of ESPN, which suffered through problems in the days leading up to the tournament.

Availability for ESPN’s NCAA basketball page was as low as 39.6 percent on Wednesday, March 14. For those that could get through to the page, performance was pretty good, at an average of 2.31 seconds that day. However, on Sunday, March 11, performance on the ESPN NCAA page was 14.25 seconds, with a 50.3 percent success rate; and 13.57 seconds on average on Monday, with a 46.2 percent average success rate for that day. On Tuesday, performance improved to 2.72 seconds, but availability was still low, at 50.5 percent. The low availability on the ESPN sites was due to connection timeouts, an error that prevents access to the site. On Friday, when the problem was evidently corrected, the ESPN NCAA site had 98 percent availability, then 100 percent on Saturday and 99.8 percent on Sunday.

Keynote is also measuring the multipage transaction performance for online visitors accessing the results of the tournament brackets used to track results for office pools. Transaction performance for the three sites measured starting on Thursday (the first day of the tournament) varied widely, from an average 2.33 seconds to 14.99 seconds.

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