NCAA Final Four to be broadcast live online for first time

Broadcasts mark first major U.S. sporting event to be shown fully and live on the Web, says CBS

CBSSports.com today announced plans to provide a live online broadcast of this weekend's Final Four and Championship NCAA Division 1 Men's Basketball games, the first time it has shown the final contests of the tournament on the Web.

In addition, CBSSports contended that the broadcast, to be shown on its NCAA March Madness on Demand video player, marks the first time any major U.S. sporting event has been shown live and in its entirety on the Internet.

"It's a testament to the vision that the NCAA and CBS had for NCAA March Madness on Demand that we're continuing to make history around this event," said Jason Kint, senior vice president and general manager of CBSSports.com, in a statement. "The consumer and advertising success story we've written by being the first to offer a live online broadcast of a major sporting event and on a complementary platform to television is surely something that other leagues and networks will look to replicate in the future."

The company said that it attracted 4.3 million unique visitors to the NCAA March Madness on Demand site during the first eight days of the tournament, a 147% increase over 2007.

Total minutes of live streaming video and audio consumed in the first eight days of the tournament surpassed 4.5 million hours. The average stream time for the Elite 8 games totaled more than 32 minutes. In addition, the company said that there were 2.4 million clicks for CBS' "Boss Button," which would bring up a mock spreadsheet for workers watching games on the job.

CBSSports attributed the traffic growth to its decision to drop registration requirements for the product and provide fans with immediate access to the video. That decision allowed CBSSports.com to distribute the on-demand service to more than 200 sites across the Internet, including major sports Web sites such as ESPN.com and Yahoo Sports, the company said.

Nearly 3.7 million fans submitted brackets for the tournament on CBSSports.com or Facebook, up 65% from 2007. Of the 500,000 fans playing on CBSSports.com, more than 51,000 correctly predicted the four teams -- the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Memphis, Kansas University and the University of California, Los Angeles.

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