SBD/Issue 131/Sports Media

CBS' 5.3 Overnight Avg. For Men's Tourney Down Slightly From '09

CBS averaged a 5.3 overnight Nielsen rating for the first four days of the men's NCAA Basketball Tournament (15 telecasts). That rating is down slightly from a 5.4 overnight during the same period a year ago (THE DAILY).

IN RECORD DEMAND: CBSSports.com's March Madness On Demand Thursday drew 3 million unique users and 3.4 million total hours consumed of live video and audio, both all-time records for single-day traffic of a live sports event online. The metrics, buttressed in part by a rebuilt video player and a frenetic run of upsets and overtime games on the tournament's opening day, were up 11% in unique users and 21% in audio/video consumption compared to the first day of the '09 tournament. Those growth rates from Thursday, in turn, were sharply lower than day-one spikes of more than 55% seen when comparing '09 to '08. The redesigned, Dilbert-themed "Boss Button," meanwhile, was clicked more than 1.7 million times, 13% higher than the day-one figure in '09, and more than 60% of the 2.77 million clicks seen for the entire '09 tournament. The double-overtime BYU-Florida game was MMOD's most-watched game, with 521,000 hours of streaming video and audio (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal).

Will Upsets Like Northern Iowa's Lead
To Smaller Ratings In Sweet Sixteen?

WILL UPSETS HURT RATINGS? USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand writes CBS entering the second week of the tournament is "now left with tons of little-known squads, such as St. Mary's and Northern Iowa." This year's "upset-crazy tournament might test whether viewers really do want to watch Davids rather than Goliaths," or it "might show something else: It doesn't matter all that much who's playing" (USA TODAY, 3/22).

SWITCHING IT UP: In St. Petersburg, Tom Jones wrote CBS has "gotten better about switching from blowouts to close games." But the net "dropped the ball badly" yesterday by "shuffling around and missing the last second" of the Xavier-Pittsburgh game, during which Pittsburgh had an opportunity to tie the score (TAMPABAY.com, 3/21). In Toronto, Chris Zelkovich writes CBS "left viewers feeling dizzy Friday when it bounced between games four times in a minute" (TORONTO STAR, 3/22). In Dallas, Barry Horn wrote, "Try as CBS might, all those timeouts at the end of tight games make it impossible to please viewers as the network jumps from contest to contest. Like when Wake Forest's L.D. Williams traveled while out of bounds in the closing seconds of regulation in a [close] game against Texas. There was brief video but no explanation." The replay and explanation "finally came minutes later after a break for a Tennessee-San Diego State snippet" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 3/20).

BOOTH REVIEW: In N.Y., Phil Mushnick writes, "Is it ok to admit that I sorta, kinda miss Billy Packer?" Packer's replacement, CBS analyst Clark Kellogg, is "fine, but Kellogg doesn't seem to hold opinions or convictions beyond the importance of blocking out and setting high screens." Packer at "this time of year" always "poured a strong drink, shaken and stirred." Meanwhile, Mushnick writes CBS analysts Mike Gminski and Jim Spanarkel have "again had a strong tournament," as both "so smartly see and speak the floor, no shouting" (N.Y. POST, 3/22). Sports business reporter Tim Lemke wrote he likes the "addition of Greg Anthony in the studio." Lemke: "Not sure what it is exactly but he gives off a more natural vibe than Clark Kellogg." Meanwhile, Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery's chemistry is "great, they are entertaining and they are both still good at what they do" (TIMLEMKESPORTS.com, 3/19). SPORTINGNEWS.com's Dan Levy writes Lundquist and Raftery "solidified their status as the best crew in the tournament this weekend" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 3/22). In Denver, Dusty Saunders writes Lundquist and Raftery "mix courtside knowledge and evenhanded commentary with occasional unbridled enthusiasm." In addition, Kevin Harlan and Dan Bonner deserve a "round of applause" for their "down-the-stretch coverage of Northern Iowa's upset win over Kansas" on Saturday (DENVER POST, 3/22). In Albany, Pete Dougherty wrote Gminski and Tim Brando are a "good, if not conventional," pairing for CBS. Brando as a play-by-play announcer "has a style that makes him almost a second analyst," and his "lead enables him and Gminski to get into some dissection that is a good listen not only for ardent fans of the two teams, but to casual viewers as well" (Albany TIMES UNION, 3/20).

Desire To Expand Tournament Field Could Play
Part In NCAA Possibly Ending CBS Deal

ALL ABOUT THE MONEY: The DENVER POST's Saunders notes the NCAA has an option to end its contract with CBS, and "any changes in the status quo would be based mainly on a matter of dollars and cents, rather than common sense." A deal between ESPN and the NCAA to carry to the tournament "could be tied to a tournament expansion to 96 teams." Both the NCAA and ESPN "could benefit financially under such a deal, particularly if the tournament would include more teams." ESPN's "major selling point" would be the "ability to utilize its various broadcasting platforms and air most games in their entirety rather than CBS's hopscotch method" (DENVER POST, 3/22). In N.Y., Bob Raissman wrote, "It sure looks like NCAA execs believe adding more tournament inventory will get an ESPN/ABC combo or a CBS/Turner partnership to spend even more than the $6[B] CBS agreed to shell out in the current deal." All involved in "broadcasting college basketball have a vested self interest here." Raissman: "More games, more jobs available. If new network partners come in, there will be an announcer shakeup. Some of the old familiar faces might finally be forced out giving someone else a chance" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/21).

OPPOSITION TO EXPANSION: In Augusta, Scott Michaux wrote the tournament is "already about as big as it needs to be," and if any expansion is "necessary, they should make play-in games exclusively for the at-large bubble teams." Michaux: "I'm not saying that the tournament can't be improved with just a little more tweaking. But 96 seems considerably too far" (AUGUSTA CHRONICLE, 3/21). The N.Y. POST's Mushnick wrote the NCAA "should pass" on opting out of its current deal and expanding the tournament. Not only does CBS "do a good job televising the tournament, the 65-team format annually has proven too good to mess with." The first round of this year's tournament, "as always, included too much natural intrigue -- and residual buzz -- to improve on through any artificial stimuli, especially the kind money creates" (N.Y. POST, 3/21). 

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