The first week of March Madness didn't light up the Nielsen Ratings, as CBS saw this year's numbers come in at an average of a 4.8 rating/11 share for the four days of play. That is about a 9% drop from last year. Over the last four years the initial week of action has averaged at least a 5.0 household rating.
Thirteen of the broadcast time windows saw a drop in the ratings, with the two Friday afternoon sessions seeing a rise in audience from the year before.
That could be accounted by the fact that this was the first year for first-week action to fall on Good Friday, when more people were out of school and off work. CBS will also point out that the NCAA Tournament is one of the special events that is hardest to get an accurate count on since there is no really effective measuring of the anytime/anywhere crowd. Who knows how many viewers are in the nation's sports bars taking in the games.
And with the ad time bought and paid for, CBS is busy giving those advertisers added value with the ancillary rights that they so smartly bought when they negotiated this contract back in the late 90's.
March Madness On Demand is begining to pay off - big - for the Eye Network. The internet, radio and licensing rights that CBS aquired back then are becoming major contributors to the $500 million in revenue the tournament brings in each year.
Henry James is all set to surf the internet for Sweet 16 Contests in the comfort of his home
When CBS first offered online video streaming of the NCAA tournament games, they made is a subscription service. In 2005, the subscription model only generated about $250,000 in revenue.
This year CBS decided to not only stream all games for free, they are also allowing over 200 other sites, including competitors like Yahoo.com and ESPN to link to their March Madness on Demand video streaming. Their viewer research showed that the people who watched online were exclusive of those who watched on TV. They generally were at work or away from a TV set. The current estimates are that the ad revenue from this online viewing will be somewhere between $20-25 Million for 2008. Almost all of that will go directly to the bottom line, since the production costs are already absorbed into the on-air product.
CBS has even thought enough of its internet users to supply the handy "Boss Button."
The Boss Button is in a lower corner of the NCAA video streaming, and can be punched to full screen, while also cutting the audio off - should prying eyes come near your cubicle.
It's estimated that there have been more than 2.5 million clicks of the "Boss Button" so far.