March Madness Still One of the Biggest Sports Franchises


Other big spenders include AT&T ($35 million a year ago), Coca-Cola ($25.3 million), Capital One ($24.2 million) and Hewlett-Packard ($21.8 million).
While the online March Madness On Demand feature continues to grow in popularity—office drones are particularly happy to stream live game coverage during the first hectic week of bracket-busting action—the dollars have been slow to catch up. Of the $613.8 million in total ad revenue CBS took in over the course of the three weeks a year ago, a mere 5.7 percent, or $37 million, was generated by the online video player.

According to CBS Sports, the MMOD app last year served up 8.3 million unique visitors, up 11 percent from 2009. Compared to the uniques generated during the 2008 tourney, last year’s usage was up a whopping 73 percent.
Although last year’s Duke-Butler final drew 23.9 million viewers, making it the most watched championship game since 2005, deliveries haven’t approached the heights of the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s. The last time a final broke the 30 million viewer mark was 1994 when Arkansas shocked Duke, 76-72. Per Nielsen, CBS’ broadcast averaged 32.7 million viewers.

The most watched capper in NCAA history was broadcast on March, 26, 1979. In a game that would prefigure their storied NBA rivalry, Earvin “Magic” Johnson’s Michigan State outlasted Larry Bird and Indiana State, 75-64, in front of a national TV audience of 35.1 million viewers. That was one of the last title games presented by NBC, as CBS assumed the rights to the tournament in 1982.

The 2011 tourney marks the first time in the 73-year history of the event that fans will be able to catch every game live. Last April, Turner Sports and CBS announced they had made a joint bid for the NCAA’s marquee event, beating out ESPN with a 14-year, $10.8 billion deal.

Beginning March 15, Turner will tip off March Madness on its truTV network. TBS, TNT and CBS will then pick up the thread, with the broadcast net hosting the title game through 2016. At that point, CBS and TBS will begin sharing coverage of the Final Four, while alternating stewardship of the championship game.

Sales for the first joint NCAA tourney have been a cooperative effort. According to sources in both camps, CBS and Turner Sports are all but sold out of in-game and digital inventory, with pricing for the Final Four weekend up sharply from a year ago.