March Madness On Demand Day One: Free and Clear

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It’s no secret that a lot of people were watching some college basketball today on CBSSports.com’s March Madness on Demand service — which streams every game in the NCAA Tournament for free. So how did Day One go? Some observations:

• Quality — Unlike most players which are inundated with Web viewers during a given event, the CBSSports.com player had very few interruptions. The broadcasts were clear and hopping between games took just seconds to reload.

• Ads — Although there were no pre-roll ads, the advertising presence was clear. For every commercial break, the Web ad rotation of AT&T, Coke Zero and Pontiac was endless. And although you could switch between games easily, you were unable to navigate away from a commercial break to check in on another game.

• Player — In addition to the “live game” navigation, there was also a “bracket” mode where you could check how the tournament was shaping up (and to see if you were already out of your office pool). There was also a “historical highlights” section, with clips of famous tournament games.

• Special Features — Two that stuck out: You could chose to listen to the Westwood One radio feed rather than the CBS announcers (which can be a popular choice, especially if you’re doing more listening than watching). Also, the “boss button” was back (this year sponsored by Comcast), which quickly switches the player to a mock Excel spreadsheet for those close calls in the office.

With the amount of people likely viewing games online today, the player was able to withstand the rush with very little wait time. Will it last tomorrow?

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