CBS and the NCAA have teamed up again this year to provide free online coverage of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. You can watch any game that isn’t televised in your local market on the March Madness on Demand Web site. Registration is required, but it’s all free and you get buzzer to buzzer coverage.
Last year, CBS offered the service for free and more than 1.9 million viewers watched more than 19 million streams, according to the company. This year the image has been enlarged from 320 by 240 pixels (quarter VGA) to 480 by 360. This is still pretty blocky when enlarged to full screen on an SXGA computer monitor — and a long way from HD — but it’s a big improvement over last year. The free VIP registrations are all taken by now, but you can still register for a free pass. The difference is that you may have to wait “in line” a bit longer before you can start watching, but the site will tell you how long the wait will be. Traffic is expected to be heaviest during the opening rounds as there are more games being played at the same time.
If porn is the first driver of television technology advances, then sport has to be a close second. CBS proved that they could have financial success with an advertising-supported free service for the NCAA basketball tournament last year, and have added considerably to the resources devoted to the project this year. The success of this experiment will certainly encourage others to develop more projects to deliver television content for free to viewers over the Internet.