Friday, March 9, 2007

The Most Successful Online Video Event So Far ...

... has got to be CBS March Madness product, located here. When they first came out in 2004 in conjunction with CSTV, it was as a $19.95 subscription. Starting last year, CBS started offering it free to viewers, with the cost underwritten by advertisers.

Now that's really starting to bear solid fruit: this Mediapost story (free registration required) reports that revenue has gone to $9 million this year, over double that of last year's $4 million, with advertisers such as AT&T's wireless unit, Kraft Foods and DiGiorno buying into the fun.

I can think of four key reasons why this specific online video offering has become so successful:

  1. It's an event. March Madness has become the #1 sports event in America, and it generates a significant amount of low-level non-professional (and professional) gambling. So there's a lot of intense interest inherent in it. (I love serendipitous assonance.)
  2. It's sports, a top avocation for the heaviest users of video, young men.
  3. It's free. Appealing for obvious reasons.
  4. It's a viable alternative to nothing. This is not an insignificant point. I would be willing to bet that the vast, vast majority of online video viewership of March Madness comes in the early rounds during weekday day games, when most people are at work and have no alternative method of or access to viewing games. Once you get later into the tourney -- specifically, Sweet Sixteen -- every game is on TV anyway, and plays at night or on weekends. The chances you'll be watching a relatively grainy online video versus watching the same game on better-resolution TV, especially hi-def, has got to be nearly nil.
If proven correct, then the implication here is that people respond to scheduled video events that are special in nature and not otherwise available to them. This is not the same viewing psychology as watching UGC on YouTube, or catching up on the latest 30 Rock on

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