For CBS, March's NCAA Division I Men's College Basketball Championship has long been a digital boon.
Getting off to a strong start, NCAA March Madness on Demand video players attracted about 3 million unique visitors on Thursday, March 18 -- the first day of the first round of the tournament. Those visitors then consumed 3.4 million hours of live streaming video and audio.
That represented more than a 20% jump over the same day in March of last year, according to statistics released by CBSSports.com in partnership with CBS Sports and the NCAA.
Jason Kint, SVP and general manager of CBSSports.com, attributed the viewership gains to new features and great basketball. "There was little doubt we would set another new record," he said.
In addition, the NCAA March Madness on Demand "Boss Button" was clicked over 1.7 million times on the first day the first round of the tournament. By contrast, the "Boss Button" was clicked 2.77 million over the course of the entire tournament in March 2009.
Aware that fans might be sneaking a peak at work, the "Boss Button" immediately silences the video player's audio, and replaces the streaming game coverage with a boss-friendly "business-like" image.
The most-watched game on Thursday was the double-overtime Florida vs. BYU game, with 521,000 hours of streaming video and audio. That was 50% greater than last year's most-watched game from the first day of the first round --Washington vs. Mississippi State -- which accounted for 348,000 hours of streaming.
Meanwhile, the most-watched hour on Thursday was between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. -- responsible for some 533,000 streaming hours.
Like 2009, CBSSports.com this year is offering users a standard video player in addition to a premium service, which offers a higher-quality video player experience.
Key sponsors this year include AT&T, Capital One and Coca-Cola.
CBSSports.com is also allowing media partners -- CNN.com, ESPN.com and Facebook -- to link directly into its MMOD video player.