The madness is about to begin online.
CBSSports.com will once again provide free Web access for all 63 games of the 2010 NCAA Division 1 Men's Basketball Championship, tipping off March 18 and culminating with the title tilt on April 5, through its March Madness On Demand platform.
Speaking March 9 at CBS's annual media day in support of the tourney Jason Kint, senior vice president and general manager of CBSSports.com, said that MMOD would "easily surpass" the 2009 tourney's total of 7.5 million unique visitors, which represented a 58% jump from the 2008 level.
Moreover, what Kint called the "biggest live streaming event on the Internet," generated some 8.6 million hours of video and audio consumption last spring, a 75% leap from the prior year.
As was the case last year, CBSSports.com will again provide a standard video player in addition offering viewers the ability to upgrade to enhanced video system, both of which will show statistical overlays on top of live-game action, displaying tourney leaders in various categories.
New to MMOD this year: picture-in-picture highlights of ongoing action of a live video stream.
"Users will be able to see the highlights without having to leave the game they've been watching," said Kint in an interview on March 10.
From an ad perspective, MMOD is very much in the green. With incumbent presenting sponsors AT&T and Coca-Cola returning and new NCAA corporate champion sponsor Capital One, subbing for Pontiac, plus other sponsors, CBS has sold out its inventory for the platform.
Network officials said MMOD ad sales would be about 20% above last year's base of some $30 million, but didn't specify the amount.
Kint said that MMOD had attracted "many more advertisers than last year. There certainly is a lot of interest in March Madness On Demand."
One element that won't be sponsored is the so-called "boss button," which hides the live video action on the screen when one's employer is lurking, replacing it with a "business-like image."
Last year, Comcast sponsored the element, but CBS elected not to seek an association this time around. "It's a fun feature, but we decided it's not the place to run advertising," said Kint, noting that the boss button will have a new look.
He wouldn't disclose how the feature would be different this year and that fans would have to tune in Sunday March 14 to check it out. The boss button is scheduled to be unveiled during NCAA Basketball Championship Selection Show on CBS, which also will be streamed live on MMOD.
In addition to its Web streaming, CBS will deliver live games to Apple iPhone and iTouch devices via a premium MMOD application that tips off March 14 with the Selection Show. Working in conjunction with AT&T, the mobile MMOD application -- for $9.95, up from $4.95 for the 2009 tourney -- provides live game action on 3G, EDGE and Wi-Fi connections.
There is also a free "lite" application that encompasses on-demand video highlights, news updates and scores from tournament games.
Both the free and pay applications also include an interactive tournament bracket that updates with real-time scores, plus news headlines and the ability to log into Facebook and Twitter to connect with friends.
Hoop fans can follow the "Road To the Final Four with exclusives CBSSports.com "Edge Matchups" previews. Users can also fill out their brackets directly from the app and track their picks' progress, or lack thereof.