NCAA March Madness On Demand sets streaming video record

Online streaming live video of the NCAA March Madness basketball tournament topped out at 3 million viewers on Thursday, CBS said.

Sue Ogrocki/AP
Bringham Young forward Brandon Davies faces Florida forward Alex Tyus in second overtime during NCAA college basketball March Madness on Thursday. has a message for NBC: This is how you do online video.

CBSSports is reporting that on Thursday, the first day of the Men's NCAA basketball tournament, it served 3.4 million hours of live streaming video to 3 million computer-bound fans with its March Madness On Demand player. It's being called the largest single-day of traffic for a live sports event on the Internet.

Last year CBS tallied 4.8 million hours for the entire tournament.

You know what that means: Lots of watching at the office.

And who can blame viewers, especially if CBS is going to stream all 63 games of the tournament online for free?

Well, bosses, for one. The "boss button" atop the player CBS March Madness On-Demand player, which mutes game audio and fills the screen with a generic-looking spreadsheet, was invoked 1.7 million times on Thursday, CBS says.

It would seem that CBS understands, where NBC and its delay- and registration-plagued Vancouver Olympics coverage did not: On a hot day for online video, a firehose wins you more friends than a pay-per-use drinking fountain.

In February, NBC caught criticism from Sen. Herb Kohl (D), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee's antitrust panel, for its policy of limiting online Olympics video access to those who pay for cable or satellite TV subscriptions.

""I fear that that this practice of locking up certain content only for pay-TV subscribers may be a preview of what is to come with respect to TV programming shown on the Internet, particularly in the context of the proposed Comcast/NBC Universal merger," he wrote to NBC president and CEO Jeff Zucker.

NBC also caught the ire of its TV viewers. Some, wanting to be surprised as they watched marquee events like Lindsay Vonn's Downhill gold medal win, went to great lengths to block out live reports of the results while waiting for NBC to air taped coverage in primetime.

Asked in February about the shifting expectations for live sports coverage, Villanova University communications professor Tom Ksiazek said that networks have to adapt to the way people want to watch.

“Going away are the days when programmers had control over when people watch.”

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