March Madness, Video Gladness


In this business, many of us spend significant amounts of time buying, planning, and developing video advertising. If we’re doing our jobs, we also watch lots of streaming video (you know, to identify the best opportunities).

That’s why I was eagerly awaiting CBS’s March Madness on Demand (MMOD) streaming video event. It allowed college basketball fans to watch any game from the first three rounds of the NCAA Men’s College Basketball Tournament — free.

As college basketball fans (or anyone very passionate about the office pool) will probably tell you, they’ve sneaked out of the office on various occasions to catch a game or two from the early rounds of the tournament, especially when their team is about to be upset. If there was ever a daytime streaming video event that could capture the eyeballs of the millions of folks sitting in their cubicles, already staring at computer screens, this was going to be it. Hopes were so high, in fact, CBS executives claimed this would be the biggest streaming event ever, eclipsing AOL’s coverage of LIVE 8. Lofty goals but certainly attainable, given the tournament’s popularity.

Though it doesn’t look like overall streaming numbers will eclipse LIVE 8, this first-ever event was by no means a failure from either a consumer or business perspective.

Take a look at the following numbers:

  • MMOD surpassed LIVE 8 on simultaneous video streams, peaking on Thursday with 268,000 concurrent streamers, compared to LIVE 8’s best of 175,000.
  • Over the first four days of the tournament, over 14 million video streams were delivered.
  • Over the first four days of the tournament, 4 million visitors came to the site.

Digest that for a moment. These numbers are not necessarily world records, but they do shape up to be something that can serve as a model for years as the Super Bowl of online video advertising.

Audiences were actually held back from improving these numbers by a registration process that ensured they were held in a waiting room until spots opened up. But while they were waiting, streaming ads were continuously playing in front of them.

This streaming event worked because:

  • People felt passionate about the content; they were emotionally (and financially) vested.
  • It was free and live, and the outcome was completely unpredictable.

I anticipate next year’s participation numbers to almost double, resulting in what would truly be the most successful live streaming event ever. CBS will likely sign more exclusive sponsors, better advertise it on broadcast TV and the Web, and remove entry barriers for audiences. Advertisers will be paying too high a premium to limit their potential audiences. It wouldn’t be surprising to see online video ratings of daytime games eclipse TV ratings.

This can and should be the perfect storm of online video advertising, blending reach, interactivity, and emotion. It won’t be long before other leagues and organizations try to mimic what just happened here. Start planning now. Advertisers and agencies should be all over this coverage or risk being upset by competitors.

Now if only GW could have upset Duke…


Related reading