20 Distributors Already Offering March Madness On Demand

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The tournament doesn't tip off until March 19, but cable, satellite and telco video subscribers can immerse themselves in the madness on demand, courtesy of CBS College Sports Network and the NCAA.

Class is already in session for "NCAA VOD: The Best of March Madness," with more content assets, more affiliates and more marketing support for the sophomore season of the program. The program began March 2 with the first batch of content assets, featuring great moments from NCAA men's tournaments past, being made available to the various distributors' on-demand platforms.

Produced by CBS Sports, CBS College Sports Network, Thought Equity Motion and the NCAA, The Best of March Madness VOD package comprises advertising-free customized highlights for the 63 tournament games, plus 40 archival vignettes, in both standard and high-definition formats. Extending last year's window, the content will be available through April 30.

"March Madness is a huge event and VOD is an asset that MSOs and other distributors can use to differentiate their products and drive their business," said Bob Rose, CBS College Sports executive vice president of distribution.
Rose wouldn't discuss financial terms, but noted "it doesn't come free. But there's a good value equation that everybody's looking at."

In expanding its distribution bench this season, DirecTV is joining such providers as Comcast, Verizon FiOS, Charter, Mediacom, Insight, Bresnan, Bend Broadband, Atlantic Broadband and Service Electric.
CBS College Sports, which had inked deals with 20 providers at press time, is still working to bring more distributors to the VOD roster before the tourney

Those who are on the roster will have access to such NCAA March Madness memories as the 30th anniversary of the Magic Johnson-Larry Bird final, Mario Chalmers' game-tying three-pointer in last year's title tilt and Christian Laettner's famed buzzer beater in the 1992 Duke-Kentucky game.

CBS College Sports senior vice president of affiliate marketing and distribution Ellen Schned said the VOD package also encompasses tournament recap shows from 2008 and the upcoming Madness. In a nod to the 50th anniversary of Motown and Final Four taking place at Ford Field, sports music videos, featuring exciting tournament highlights, will be set to Stevie Wonder's Superstition and Higher Ground.

Last year, Rose said three-quarters of the on-demand viewing came from the 25 memorable moments, housed within 16 different asset packages, with the balance stemming from the game recaps. That ratio could skew even more toward the memories this year, given the expanded segment package, which include intros and contextual elements, provided by CBS College Sports and CBS college basketball analysts Seth Davis and Adam Zucker.

The vignette dissemination is being staggered, with most of the memories available by the ides of March, according to Schned.

As for game action, highlights package will be culled from the tourney's first four days.

Thereafter, from the Sweet 16 regional semifinals through the national championship game on April 6, there will be individual cutdowns, averaging three minutes. That on-demand content becomes available to distributors the next morning.

On the marketing front, CBS College Sports is partnering with over 100 colleges to promote on college Web sites and grassroots marketing on campus. There will also be extensive on-air promotion on the 30-million subscriber network, as well as CBS and sister properties CBSSports.com and Showtime, plus NCAA.com

As for affiliates, Schned said CBS College Sports provides all partners with customized cross-channel spots, Web banners, ad slicks and barker channel touts from Davis. That says nothing to partners own media buys against the initiative.

Looking ahead, Rose says CBS College Sports has engaged operators in conversations about 12-month on-demand NCAA opportunities.