Sports Fans Flock to NCAA Webcast

CBS Attributes 122% Increase in Visitors to New Pop-up Feature

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CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- As if the economic news weren't bleak enough these days, CBSSports.com has apparently found a way to make the NCAA tournament -- supposedly a major productivity drain -- even more distracting to even more employees.
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The website's online video offering of yesterday's first-round college basketball action drew 1.75 million unique visitors, a 122% increase over last year's first-day totals and 25% more than the 1.4 million total unique viewers for the entire tournament in 2007.

Pop-up windows
Jason Kint, the site's senior VP-general manager, attributed the surge in visitors to CBS's use for the first time of pop-up windows of live tournament game coverage through non-CBS websites. So a visitor to ESPN.com could click on a banner advertisement and immediately launch a pop-up window with video of any of CBS's coverage.

"My forecast was for double-digit growth, maybe 80%," said Mr. Kint. "But we're way over that."

The video offering, which launched in 2003, has grown dramatically in recent years by lowering the bar for who could watch, and, of course, by benefiting from greater broadband penetration nationwide.

Originally a subscription offering, it drew 25,000 viewers paying $10 a pop in 2005. A year later, it went free, and ad revenue grew to $4 million. Last year, that number expanded to $10 million, and CBS executives have projected the web offering's sales will climb to more than $21 million this year.

Boss button
That may be bad news for the nation's employers, who some studies say lose up to $4 billion in worker productivity do to NCAA-related distractions. While many of those studies are based on the ludicrous assumption that workers don't find ways to waste time the rest of the year, CBS nonetheless has offered slackers a "Boss" button on its videocasts, which covers the game with a spreadsheet in a hurry should a supervisor approach.

According to Mr. Kint, the boss button was clicked 1.2 million times yesterday.
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