Cinderella didn’t make it to the Final Four, so CBS was hoping last week that the well-known teams still in the NCAA Basketball Tournament would play competitive games and score championship ratings.
CBS Sports last week reported a 6.2 Nielsen Media Research household rating for the tournament so far, up from a 6.1 a year ago.
With ad time for the Final Four sold out, all the network could do was root for some close games between Ohio State, Georgetown, UCLA and defending champ Florida, who survived in a tournament marked by surprisingly few upsets.
Last year’s final games were mostly blowouts and many fans tuned out.
Though ratings for the March 31 semifinal games and the April 2 championship game will have a big impact on the tournament’s financial performance for CBS, “we’re certainly ahead” of last year as of last week, said Chris Simko, senior VP of sports sales and marketing.
Many of the tournament’s TV advertisers also participated in March Madness on Demand, where out-of-market games were streamed online.
This year, MMOD had 31 advertisers, up from 20 last year, including all of the network’s NCAA Championship marketing partners. And with more time to promote and advertise the streaming service, ad sales basically doubled from 2006, the first year it was supported solely by ad revenue.
This season the online games carried more commercials. There were also more sponsored features, such as a halftime show sponsored by Cingular. Dell Computer and Courtyard hotels are the presenting sponsors of MMOD.
“We’ve been able to aggregate all the different CBS assets around this property unlike ever before and we’ve been able to monetize them, which is important for the corporation, and at the same time [we’ve been] able to create value and different kinds of exposure streams for all of our sponsors,” Mr. Simko said.
The last figures provided by CBS showed that as of March 15, about 800,000 people had registered for the games and had visited the site’s video player more than 1.5 million times. The traffic satisfied advertiser guarantees for the tournament in the first four days, according to a CBS spokesman.
The spokesman said the network was trying to come up with data that would be more useful to advertisers than simply the number of visits, such as the average length of each visit. Advertisers want viewers to stay through the commercial break, and people who watch for 30 seconds or so aren’t seeing those commercials.