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B-Ball Fans Fast Break To Madness Sites

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Thanks to CBS’ decision to broadcast games via the Web, nearly 10 million people flocked to sports-related websites on the first day of March Madness, the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament, according to Nielsen//NetRatings. The largest increase was during working hours, where employees could watch at their desks.

That represents a spike of 21 percent overall as sports fans sought to register before the start of the games on Thursday, March 16. But for CBS’ Sportsline.com Networks, which gathered over a third of that influx of traffic, it was an 84 percent increase in unique visitors.

By contrast, AOL Sports and FOX Sports on MSN experienced around a 30 percent increase, grabbing fewer unique visitors combined. Out of the 9.7 million sports fans, CBS brought in 3.6 million visitors, AOL and FOX attracted one million and two million respectively.

“We’re off to a great start in 2006 for broadband events, first with this year’s Olympics, and now with March Madness,” said Jon Gibs, senior director of media, Nielsen//NetRatings.

“CBS had a great opportunity to stream out-of-market content to office workers during a high point of the college sports year, and managed to take advantage of the confluence of high consumer interest, great content and the inability of office workers to leave their desks.”

During the week ending March 12, even before the start of the tournament, sites belonging to the CBS Sportsline.com Network were among the fastest growing sites overall. Web ratings show that people were drawn to sites that offered pre-registration as the first day of the tournament approached.

NCAASports.com jumped 201 percent to 1.2 million, while CSTV.com grew 46 percent over the previous week to 3.3 million unique visitors. CBS Sportsline.com (Web channel) saw a 28 percent growth to 2.4 million unique visitors.

“CBS Sportsline.com did well to promote early user registration for its streamed live games, contributing to a spike in traffic on its network of sites,” said Gibs.

“While there was some concern that CBS would not be able to handle the massive amount of streaming traffic, so far few concerns have been voiced by consumers. The only real question that remains is if CBS can turn these March Madness’ customers into long-term visitors.”

At-work traffic to NCAA sites outdrew at-home traffic by over a million visitors (5.9 million to 4.8 million) on March 16. But Gibs is uncertain about the impact it had on productivity.

“There have been in the past, and there will be going forward, concerns about the effects of major sporting events on worker productivity,” said Gibs.

“Workplaces, however, should consider that many of these same workers could just as well be taking long lunches, or repeatedly refreshing browser windows to see new scores. So while video is certainly not adding to worker productivity, the jury is still out on its negative effects.”

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B-Ball Fans Fast Break To Madness Sites


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