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March Madness on demand: Is it a sign of things to come?

Mar 22, 20062 mins

* Watching NCAA during work hours? What would your boss say?

In the last newsletter, we began a discussion of CBS’s decision to provide real-time programming of the NCAA basketball tournament over the Internet – for free. This time we want to look at this decision from a bit of a broader perspective.

Our observation was that the video was not as good as “real” TV, but it beat the heck out of not being able to see the game if you were an expatriot in a different part of the country – or of the world. Two quick notes here: First, the registration asked for your zip code, so you were subject to local blackout if a) the game was shown on regular TV locally and b) you told the truth about your zip code. Second, there was one aspect in which the experience was exactly like regular TV. The audio volume on the commercials was significantly louder than the volume for the programming.

At least two aspects of the user interface indicated that the feature may be used in the office. On the less serious side, the user window – where you chose your game – included a “Boss Button.” If you clicked on this link, the window immediately changed to something that looked a lot like an Excel spreadsheet. On the more serious side, one of the FAQs was “How does our company block access to MMOD (March Madness on Demand)?” The answer indicated an understanding that there was a possibility of abuse of this feature in a business setting, so network administrators should block access to http traffic for

Perhaps the more important lesson here is that there may be limited circumstances in which multicasting of live events will have great appeal. The first round of the NCAA tournament is one of the few sporting events where there are four relatively important sporting events occurring simultaneously. However, with the concept proved, and even though the audience may be smaller, this also is an answer for many collegiate and professional sports events, as well as the many, many events occurring during the Olympics.

So even though we will soon view this as a prototype and a quaint happenstance, much like listening to a broadcast over a homemade AM radio with tubes, it gives a clear picture of how convergence in continuing to emerge in terms of both media, audiences, and workplace independence.