CSTV Gets March Madness Streaming Rights

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College Sports Television has acquired a bigger piece of “March Madness.”

CSTV inked a multiyear deal with CBS SportsLine.com (cbs.sportsline.com) for the exclusive video-streaming rights for out-of-market game coverage of the NCAA Division 1 men’s basketball tournament, tipping with the upcoming tourney.

For $19.95 -- or $10 if the package is purchased before Feb. 8 -- computer users will be able to watch up to 56 NCAA tournament games through the regional semifinal round by clicking on CSTV’s CollegeSports.com (www.collegesports.com), CBS SportsLine.com or NCAASports.com (www.ncaasports.com).

CSTV president Brian Bedol said subscribers will be routed to one interface, which is still being worked on, but the multiscreen format will enable users to watch one game or multiple games at the same time.

Asked about the role of cable operators in this broadband play, Bedol said: “We’ve had very enthusiastic discussions about forming some true partnerships. We expect to make some announcements shortly about special deals for CSTV customers and how we can work together to capitalize on high-speed.”

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but CBS Sports president Sean McManus said during a conference call that the agreement involved “a guarantee and revenue sharing.”

Subscribers will not gain access to broadband viewing of the game being presented by the local CBS affiliates as a means of protecting the broadcaster’s ratings and huge investment in the tournament.

CBS’ ads will be blacked out on the broadband airings, with NCAA sponsors protected from ambush marketing, according to McManus.

CSTV will be able to sell its own ads in those windows.

In the context of the broadband realm, the deal is akin to the out-of-market TV package DirecTV Inc. offers for March Madness.

Last year, CSTV -- which launched April 7, 2003, immediately after Syracuse won the national title -- began airing a nightly highlights package during the tournament.

Yahoo! Inc. (www.yahoo.com) and CBS SportsLine.com presented the streaming versions of the tournament in 2003 and 2004, respectively.

CBS and NCAA officials said the partnership with CSTV would expand the potential distribution base of the package.