SBJ/March 12 - 18, 2007/This Weeks News

Sprint returns with Madness content

Sprint is preparing to roll out mobile March Madness content this week for the second consecutive year, even though it is not an official corporate partner of the NCAA.

Sprint will provide 10 hours of content
around the men’s basketball tournament.

Sprint officials credited last year’s success as the main reason it’s launching a second year of coverage around the tournament, though executives would not give specific figures about how many people accessed the service last year. They said usage figures tripled its initial projections.

Most of the content consists of game analysis and previews of upcoming games. The service will remain free for Sprint users who subscribe to its data plan, which includes text messaging and other features. The Sprint service, however, does not have access to any game footage, since Cingular is the NCAA’s official telecommunications partner.

Last year, Sprint officials were most surprised by the number of people who accessed the content during early-round games on Thursday and Friday afternoons.

“As companies put up firewalls to keep employees from accessing Web sites during the tournament, Sprint customers can have access to game information [on their wireless phone],” said Scott Hazlett, Sprint’s group manager of original programming.

Last year, the NCAA did limit how Sprint could cover the tournament, given its deal with Cingular. That led to the producer for Sprint’s mobile video, Intersport, suing — and winning — to use the phrase “March Madness” on its shows. The NCAA has appealed the decision delivered last month and continues to warn Intersport against using the trademarked phrase “March Madness” with mobile content.

“If ‘March Madness’ is their choice of words, they’ve crossed the line,” said Scott Bearby, the NCAA’s associate general counsel.

Currently, Sprint has not sold any advertising against the tournament programming, but it is having discussions with several potential advertisers for the Power View application that launched in September, Hazlett said. Through the Power View service, Sprint’s wireless customers will have access to 300 video clips and 10 hours of content around the men’s tournament. The programming will be produced by Intersport, and Sprint will use a remote crew from Atlanta during the Final Four.

Videos will include the “Sprint Tournament Center,” which is scheduled to start on the tourney’s first day (March 15) and be hosted by Chris Rose, with Perry Clark and Matt Doherty providing analysis. The “March Madness Coaches Preview Show” launches March 13.

Staff writer Michael Smith contributed to this report.

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