CBS College Sports Network Sets Stage For Final Four

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With four No. 1 seeds surviving for the first time, March Madness has reached its Final Four.

While broadcast brethren CBS leads into the NCAA Men’s Division 1 semifinal action at 6 p.m.with The Final Four Show at 4 p.m., CBS College Sports Network gets a jump at 2 p.m. with a half-hour original special, Memphis 24/7, a behind-the-scenes look at the Memphis Tigers’ road to the Final Four in San Antonio’s Alamodome.

As it has done throughout the tournament, NCAA March Madness Central, powered by Pontiac G8, will provide review/review action from 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. The show will then highlight the Final Four results at 11 p.m. CBS College Sports' "NCAA March Madness Highlights" on-demand package will also afford a robust review of the semifinal action.

March Madness, anchored by Greg Anthony, Jay Williams, Steve Lappas, Carter Blackburn and Tracy Wolfson in San Antonio, returns from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Sunday and from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. on April 7.  The show will officially mark the countdown to the national championship tip-off from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Monday night. CBS’s presentation of the title tilt follows.

Given the presence of traditional college basketball powers North Carolina-Kansas in the nightcap semifinal and the sport’s all-time dominant program UCLA, matched with Memphis, which was ranked first for much of the season, in the opener, CBS has to be hopeful of improved ratings.

Last year’s Ohio-State-Georgetown game drew an 8.4 national rating, down 7.7% from the 9.1 for the Florida-George Mason contest in 2006. In last year’s second national semifinal match-up, Florida-UCLA dunked an 8.9 mark, up 8.5% from the 8.2 rating for UCLA-LSU two years ago.

Although the tournament’s ratings have slipped for CBS on the small screen, the online March Madness on Demand package has skyrocketed. This year for the first time, March Madness on Demand, which has benefited from CBSSports.com’s decision to drop registration requirements to the site and open multiple points of entry, is covering all 63 tournament games.

Traffic figures for the first eight days of coverage – the opening round through the Elite

8 – show a total of 4.33 million unique visitors and counting, a 147% leap from 1.75 million through the same stage of the tournament in 2007.

Total minutes of live streaming video and audio consumed in the first eight day reached 4.59 million total hours, up 69% from 2.72 million a year-ago.

A further breakdown shows that total hours of Sweet 16 consumption March 27 and 28 rose 111% to 589,308, compared with 278, 810 for the 2007 Sweet 16. CBS also said that the average stream time for Elite 8 action on March 29 and 30 was over 32 minutes.

“It’s a testament to the vision that the NCAA and CBS had for NCAA March Madness on Demand that we’re continuing to make history around this event,” said Jason Kint, senior vice president and general manager of CBSSports.com, in a statement. “The consumer and advertising success story we’ve written by being the first to offer a live online broadcast of a major sporting event and on a complementary platform to television is surely something that other leagues and networks will look to replicate in the future.”

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