When CBS and Turner Sports signed an agreement last April to share TV coverage of the NCAA men’s basketball championship, some saw the arrangement as a threat to online viewing. Showing every game on TV would, in theory, make online viewing unnecessary to many.
Just the opposite has happened. Turner reports an increase of 47 percent in total visits across March Madness On Demand broadband and mobile products for the first three rounds of the tournament, which continues this week with the Sweet 16 games. There have been 26.7 million visits across the three sites that provide access to MMOD – cbssports.com, si.com and NCAA.com – and the iPad and iPhone mobile platforms. There have been 10.3 million hours of live streaming video.
“It’s a slam dunk for the digital business,” Walker Jacobs, EVP of Turner/SI digital ad sales said. “Despite the fact that all games are on TV, it hasn’t cannibalized the audience. Viewer numbers are up on all platforms.”
Jason Kint, senior VP, general manager at CBSSports.com, “Sports fans want to watch games on the biggest screen available, so most online viewing has been during the day on Thursdays and Fridays at work where people don’t have access to TV. It’s been consistent this year. Sports fans can watch games at night on TV and March Madness On Demand during the day. More games are being watched than ever before.”
The increased online viewing satisfies advertisers who have flocked to March Madness On Demand. This year there are almost 50 advertisers, who play a variety of ads, from TV-like :30s during game breaks to pre-rolls before broadcasts begin and a variety of special programs created for individual advertisers, including Reese’s Perfect Play and Powerade 4-Point Performance.
“We’re not just selling TV on digital,” Jacobs said. “Our ability to build integrated promotions for marketers leverages audiences through our live game coverage.”
Three corporate champions – AT&T, Capital One and Coca-Cola – are the lead advertisers whose pre-rolls alternate at the beginning of broadcasts before viewers see live game action. Once the games start, ad breaks follow like they do on TV, but the ads are different because the digital ads were sold separately.
Corporate partner advertisers, who insert the NCAA logo into their ads, include Enterprise, The Hartford, Hershey’s, LG, and UPS. Unilever, Buick, and Infiniti are new this year.
Most advertisers bought package deals of TV and online ads, but many run online ads exclusively. Brands running online ads without TV include Allstate, Colgate, FedEx, Goldman Sachs, History Channel, and Marriott.
Most of the commercials that play online are TV spots, although some are online exclusives. All online ads include 300 x 250 pixel companion ads that run to the right of the video player.
Ads play in pods like they do on TV with shorter pods for time outs and longer pods for end of periods. An exclusive online “AT&T at the Half” digital show also plays.
HP and Buick are the iPad/iPhone app sponsors, appearing in :15 second pre-rolls at the beginning of broadcasts.
Jacobs said that online inventory for tournament broadcasts was sold out weeks before the tournament started.
CBS and Turner teamed up to sell the advertising and are splitting the revenue. Both companies declined to provide ad revenue figures.