Will March Madness Bring Sanity To Digital Media?

It's the topic that comes up in every discussion of digital media: When will eyeballs online be worth as much as eyeballs on traditional media?

The lack of parity between online and offline media buying has made the consumer shift to digital media consumption a very bumpy ride: from the New York Times looking to implement a digital pay wall, to NBC's spotty (at best) digital Olympic coverage, to Viacom's "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report" being pulled from Hulu. And yet despite all the pain for  media companies, and falling prices for online display advertising, there are still signs that digital revenues will eventually support quality content. The latest sign of digital's evolution is CBS Digital's coverage of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, and the impressive amount of revenue this move will generate.

Yesterday, writer Michael Learmouth reported that CBS' digital coverage of March Madness will generate $37 million in digital advertising revenues. Learmouth notes that CBS has evolved its coverage of the tournament online over the past couple of years, each year learning more about how to get more viewers and how better to sell to advertisers. It will require many more cycles of knowledge building to have anything close to the amount of accumulated knowledge media companies have when it comes to development, distribution and monetization of television content, but CBS has developed one heck of a blueprint.



What comes next? Moving past parity with television, and making each online viewer's attention worth MORE than each television viewer. Why not? With an online viewer's attention, CBS can get people to interact with advertisers, give them a more immersive experience, better target people based on cookies or registration data, or even do something as simple as getting people to download coupons at the end of commercials to help close the ROI loop for marketers.

In any event, I have to go fill out my NCAA bracket and get ready to watch the tourney online. Thanks, CBS!

4 comments about "Will March Madness Bring Sanity To Digital Media?".
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  1. Jonathan Mirow from BroadbandVideo, Inc., March 16, 2010 at 1:35 p.m.

    Will March Madness Bring Sanity To Digital Media? No - this is still the wild west, quick or dead!

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, March 16, 2010 at 1:41 p.m.

    Having this series available for on line viewing will certainly increase interest and numbers of people watching. No doubt, a person watching the competition and sees a commercial will be able to directly tune into a particular offer/website. But less distraction when multiple windows can be opened simultaneously on a little screen vs a nice large screen with one window (barring the few with more than one and others with laptop small screen on lap) in a comfortable chair? Go Razor Blades !

  3. Michael Senno from New York University, March 16, 2010 at 2:17 p.m.

    This is a unique event. Most of us watch this online because we CANNOT watch it on the big screen. CBS only puts one game on, while 3 others simultaneously play. Most viewers have the one game on and use online to see the other games, or are at work and have no TV and use online to tune in. Few other streaming video plays are comparable.

    Further, the interaction with advertisers is the utopian world that many digital media insiders see, but it's not reality. The chance that any fan watching MMOD will cut away from live games to click on an advertisement is close to ZERO. It sounds great, it may fly in general video advertising or short form stuff, but not with live events.

  4. Josh Grossman from Springpad, March 16, 2010 at 2:18 p.m.


    I agree that marketers undervalue online advertising in general. But publishers need to do a better job of creating premium inventory. It's unbelievable to me how many times I see the same ads from the same "tabloidish" companies - eg. teeth whitening, acai berry scams, etc. When publishers pull back on this type of advertising and advertisers know that viewers will actually see the ads (not being charged for below the fold ads for example until someone actually scrolls down the page), then we'll see a big uptick in CPM's.


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