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March Madness On Demand will be available on the iPad for the first time this year, marking a significant advance for the online distribution of the NCAA men's basketball tournament that is already one of the key pillars of the digital sports business. Turner Sports is now taking the lead production role for MMOD following last year's landmark NCAA media rights deal in partnership with CBS, and Turner has sought to implement several changes while still retaining the core of a product that under CBSSports.com control last year set another record with 8.3 million unique users and 11.7 million hours of consumed live video and audio. In addition to the new iPad availability -- something not possible in '10 as the wildly popular tablet was released just as last year's tournament was ending -- iPhone and iPod Touch applications return, and all the Apple MMOD products will be free for the first time. Last year's apps cost $9.99 for live streaming. "There were a ton of iPhones and iPads sold in the last year, and we expect a very, very big push from mobile this year for MMOD," said Turner President of Sales, Distribution & Sports David Levy yesterday following a MMOD media preview in N.Y. Other new features include interactive, personalized channel finders to help locate games on TV, as every NCAA tournament game will be televised nationally for the first time; and a reworked "Game Center" dashboard that blends the live video with in-game highlights, live stats, social media integration and lead charts on a single screen. With the full TV distribution, Turner and CBS are also pursuing a tighter link between the online and linear versions of the tournament coverage, though MMOD will not feature any alternate camera angles.
AD SUPPORTED AGAIN THIS YEAR: MMOD will again be advertiser-supported, including the mobile products, with both Turner and CBS handling that aspect. Network officials declined to specify '11 ad sales figures, but said the event is nearly sold out both online and on TV, with remaining inventory being held for top clients with last-minute buys. MMOD sold $32M worth of advertising for CBS two years ago, and posted strong though unspecified growth off of that figure last year. Corporate champion sponsors this year are AT&T, Capital One and Coca-Cola. MMOD ad sales categories showing particularly strong growth this year have been auto, construction and home-related products, and toiletries. Similar to prior years under CBS, Turner yesterday declined to reveal what this year's "Boss Button" will look like. The always-popular feature was clicked 3.94 million times last year, up 42% from '09.
MLB and Endemol are “teaming up to mint a new multi-media sports personality via a web series that gives one fan a 'dream job,'" according to Marisa Guthrie of the HOLLYWOOD REPORTER. The companies are “searching for the ultimate seamhead to move to New York and watch every single MLB game over the course of the entire season and share that experience with baseball fans via social media, video blogs and webisodes.” The winner will be “set up in an apartment in New York City festooned with numerous flat screen TV’s providing a live feed of every game.” The series is “set to launch at the end of the month" in time for Opening Day of the '11 MLB season on March 31. MLB and Endemol have received “over 5,000 submissions since the online application was posted Feb. 17.” Endemol USA VP/Digital Media David Armour: “The response has been overwhelming.” The series will have “a presence on MLB.com and there will also be potential for TV appearances.” Armour said, “This is much more than a web series. This is a longer term commitment. We’re creating a full community with lots of interactivity" (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 3/2).
A group of PGA Tour pro wives have hired L.A.-based marketing firm Reverb Collective "to help them land ... a reality show based on their lives," according to Alan Bastable of GOLF.com. Leot Chen (fiancée of Vaughn Taylor), Liz Estes (wife of Bob Estes), Alli MacKenzie (wife of Will MacKenzie), Melissa Weber Jones (wife of Matt Jones) and Erin Walker (wife of Jimmy Walker) are eyeing the show, and in its "first major play to generate some buzz, Reverb has released some edgy photos of the girls." MacKenzie said, "We were so careful not to do anything that would be offensive to anybody." Estes hopes the PR push "will work and that the show will find a home given that production companies have shown interest in her and the other wives in the past." Estes: "We were approached by the guys who did Pawn Stars. We talked to them three times, but they never called us back. And then this guy from VH1 asked me to put a show together with the other girls, and I'm like, 'Well, I'm not putting it together.'" Reverb CEO Amir Amiri said that if the show proceeds, it "would be golf's answer to Bravo's popular Real Housewives series, 'but with a cool twist.'" Bastable reported Amiri "believes the time is ripe for a program about Tour wives given the swell of attention the Tiger Woods scandal brought to the personal lives of pro golfers" (GOLF.com, 3/2).
New NASCAR championship
policy may affect nets' coverage
LIVE FROM BRISTOL: The '11 WNBA Draft will be held Monday, April 11, at ESPN HQs. This will mark the first time a pro sports league will conduct its draft at the net's facility in Bristol, Conn. (ESPN). On Long Island, Mark La Monica wrote ESPN hosting the draft "may not be the best thing in the world," as it is "one thing to broadcast a draft, but it's another thing to host the draft in your own studio." La Monica: "Of course, those lines between business interests and solid journalism ethics were blurred long ago at ESPN" (NEWSDAY.com, 3/2).
RUNNIN' WITH THE REBELS: On Long Island, Marcus Henry wrote HBO goes "above and beyond the call" in its documentary "Runnin' Rebels of UNLV," which debuts March 12 and offers a "look into the high-flying UNLV Runnin' Rebels under controversial coach Jerry Tarkanian." HBO "gets credit for exposing both sides of the Runnin' Rebels heyday, everything from the controversy involving ... the recruitment of former New York City high school superstar Lloyd Daniels to the photo of several Rebels players sitting in a hot tub with Richard 'Richie the Fixer' Perry, a convicted sports event fixer." Tarkanian "comes off as both a controversial and sympathetic figure" (NEWSDAY.com, 3/2).
PREP SCHOOL: Online high school sports hub MaxPreps.com has partnered with N.Y.-based mobile applications developer GameChanger Media Inc. to promote GameChanger's mobile scorekeeping applications. MaxPreps will encourage its network of more than 10,000 baseball and softball coaches to use the free GameChanger products, with the alliance then potentially extending to other sports. The use of the GameChanger apps will then greatly streamline the publishing of game results and stats on MaxPreps.com. Financial terms of the partnership were not disclosed (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal).