SBJ/March 7-13, 2011/Media

With free mobile, MMOD ready to jump

March Madness On Demand exploded in popularity in 2006 when it shifted from a pay model to an ad-supported one, moving from about 25,000 subscribers the year before to more than 1.3 million unique users. Another historic dynamic may now be emerging as Turner Sports and CBS Sports make mobile access to MMOD free for the first time.

The "GameCenter" dashboard is new for 2011.
A new iPad application for live coverage of the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament, along with newly rebuilt apps for the iPhone and iPod touch, will be offered free beginning Thursday. Live mobile streaming for MMOD cost $9.99 last year on the iPhone and iPod touch.

As a result, Turner and CBS executives are projecting sizable audience increases for the 2011 version of MMOD, which after five years as a free product stands as a key pillar of the online sports business.

“We believe the iPad will be absolutely huge for this, and on the whole, we’re anticipating really strong audience gains,” said Lenny Daniels, Turner Sports executive vice president and chief operating officer. “Mobile, in general, obviously is a major thing now, and the apps we’ve built we think provide a real level of immersiveness, and also complement the TV experience. What we’re after is creating a whole 23-day experience.”

Turner and CBS declined to project a specific audience figure for MMOD for this year, but with the heavy rollout into mobile with free products and continued consumer embrace of online video, another record is inevitable. Last year’s MMOD attracted 8.3 million unique users and 11.7 million hours of consumed live video and audio, figures that may ultimately look quaint once the full effect of a wireless MMOD is felt.

Network officials also declined to specify MMOD ad sales, but the tourney is nearly sold out both online and on TV.

Other new features for MMOD this year include a new “GameCenter” dashboard that blends live video with stats, social media integration, in-game highlights and other content on a single screen, and a personalized channel finder to locate games on TV.

Turner is taking over operations for MMOD following last year’s landmark NCAA rights deal in partnership with CBS Sports. Both networks are participating in ad sales for the event.

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