iPad users will be able to watch March Madness On Demand for free this year
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.