CBS's March Madness Strategy is Far from Crazy
April 02, 2014 | 11:19am
This year we’ve been blessed with another exciting Final Four tournament, with multiple upsets and games coming down to the buzzer. Basketball fans have had the pleasure of watching these games across multiple screens from the comfort of their home on TV, on their smartphones while they are out to dinner, or at their office on the computer…all for free.
CBS’s strategy in airing these games has been simple and comprehensive by making the games open to everybody. But it’s not just college basketball you have been watching. You are watching future of TV; the future is simultaneous, multi-screened, and easily available on multiple devices and spread across several cable channels, in addition to online sites. And while CBS has given free access to viewers across all these platforms, they have been able to monetize the process by placing advertisements on each medium.
While the availability of the games is a look into the future of viewership, March Madness represents a legacy for CBS. They have owned the rights to March Madness since 1982. But despite the legacy, CBS and Turner Broadcasting showed some keen forward thinking. Their deal for $10.8 billion in 2010 to carry the tournament from 2011 to 2024 sounds like a huge contract, but the growth in mobile advertising, for example, between now and then will make this deal more profitable for them. Broadcasters will find that long-term deals like this will get better with age. For example, mobile platform visits for live March Madness games grew 32% from 2011 to 2012, to over 33 million visits. CBS is following a simple formula; the more platforms they have, the more ways they can monetize the games. This advertising approach for March Madness is anything but crazy.