Op Quartet Backs 'Madness’

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College Sports Television has found some MSO teammates to promote its exclusive streaming-video package of the upcoming National Collegiate Athletic Association Division 1 men’s basketball tournament.

Comcast Corp., Time Warner Cable, Charter Communications Inc. and Insight Communications Co. will give a promotional assist to CSTV’s “March Madness on Demand” Internet subscription package, network president Brian Bedol said.

For $19.95, broadband subscribers to the out-of-market package can view up to 56 games through the regional semifinal round.

In late January, CSTV inked a two-year deal, plus options, with the NCAA and CBS SportsLine.com for exclusive video-streaming rights for out-of-market game coverage of the “March Madness” tournament.

The package ran on Yahoo! Inc. (www.yahoo.com) and CBS SportsLine.com in 2003 and 2004, respectively

Backed by technology from The FeedRoom, Akamai and Entriq, subscribers who click to CSTV.com, CBSSportsLine.com or NCAASports.com will be able to watch up to four games at a time on a PC screen, replay contests, hear and view press conferences and access various highlights or archival action.

Bedol said March Madness on Demand could help operators drive high-speed Internet packages, and also give them an unspecified revenue cut from subscription buys.

“Like the Super Bowl is an event that helps the consumer electronics industry push the sales of new TVs, we think March Madness on Demand can help drive consumers from dialup to our cable affiliates’ broadband services, or have existing subscribers enhance the speed of their connections,” he said.

Bedol said that Comcast is a full marketing partner in CSTV’s streaming package.

Subscribers to Comcast’s high-speed service receive access to full replays of classic games, like legendary UCLA coach John Wooden’s final contest or North Carolina’s 1982 title-game triumph over Georgetown, keyed by a baseline jumper by then-freshman Michael Jordan.

Comcast and Time Warner Cable, through the Road Runner service, are also offering video-on-demand access to certain classic clips.

Bedol said that cable partners, as well as others like Sports Illustrated and TicketMaster, will offer customers discounts ranging from “a couple of bucks to $5 off” the subscription, which can continued to be tapped up until next year’s tourney.

CSTV has a two-for-one promotion in place with American Express.

CBS, the exclusive TV carrier of the tourney, will tout the package. It’s also being pushed through database marketing, radio buys and other outlets.

All told, Bedol estimated March Madness on Demand will benefit from media valued at $5 million to $7 million.