Trend: Major television productions are testing various strategies for extending the reach of popular content.
Pete Lerma at Agency Media Strategies describes CBS' strategy for distributing the Division I NCAA basketball games.
Source: March Madness, Again on Demand
The first time CBS offered the men's Division I NCAA basketball tournament online and on demand was in 2004. Back then, CBS charged a subscription fee to watch selected games online. Its approach this year is an interesting one with a few quirks. It's allowing fans to watch up to 56 games from the first three rounds of the tournament, and it's making those games available for free.
For rounds four through six, CBS will only deliver game highlights.
Not to worry, this doesn't mean you can't see the final rounds. A distribution deal with iTunes gives fans access to the semifinals and finals. iTunes and CBS have teamed up to deliver these games the day after they're played. Of course, this deal isn't free (I'm still waiting for iTunes to start offering ad-supported downloads). It's offering individual games for $1.99 and a season pass for $19.99. For that price, games are automatically downloaded for the user.
These games will be condensed versions, which is raising questions among fans as to whether those games will be commercial-free or nothing more than highlight reels. Reuters quotes Apple iTunes executive Eddy Cue as saying, "Once halftime and advertising breaks are removed, full-length games run about an hour." That's what it's talking about when it says "condensed version." So, it seems, fans should be satisfied with the content.
Another quirk of this year's offering is that iTunes and CBS are putting a cap on the number of people who can access the content at any one time. Fans are asked to register prior to accessing the content. If you know someone who knows someone or if you registered early enough, you're granted VIP status and automatic access to the tournament content.
Everyone else? We get what "general admission access." When viewing reaches the preset caps, fans are placed in a waiting room. Users can see how many other people are in line and where they are in the queue. The odd thing is users will see that they're, say, number 71,384 in line. And if the user's in the general admission line, he'll see where he'd be if he were a VIP (not that there's any way to step up to VIP status).
I'm sure CBS knows what it's doing. It's not like this tactic is going to tick anybody off. In my experience, you get through the waiting room fairly quickly.
Agencies and advertisers should check out CBS's March Madness On Demand before it's gone. Then, think of ways to create innovative approaches with on-demand events like this one.