29 March, 2009

Final Four is set, ready for CBS!

The grandest stage in College Basketball was once again a rousing success for television network CBS Corp (CBS). Year after year the NCAA tournament is filled with drama, action, heartbreak and incredible performances, just about everything a television network would want from one of its prime-time tv shows.

Now, although the later stages of the tournament this year lacked a glass-slipper boasting Cinderella, the games attracted an impressive audience, especially online. With the help of Akamai Technologies (AKAM), CBC was able to stream all the tournament games in the highest quality it had ever streamed the event before and the results were impressive. A few statistics from BusinessInsider (Link) show traffic up 57% year over year, and streamed content up 65% on the CBS website. Certain advertising opportunities, such as the "Boss Button" also showed impressive gains with 25% growth in clicks. In comparison, for the first days of the tournament CBS saw increased television ratings of 4%.

What does this all add up to? Well for North Carolina, UConn, Michigan State and Villanova, a chance to play on the biggest stage for a National Basketball Title. For shareholders of CBS, whose value has declined over 80% in 1 year, in the midst of the recession, operating losses and dividend cuts, the hope is for a continued spark from the tournament. However this spike has all but fizzled along with the market. Today's 13% decline has given back most of the gains made by CBS in the last 2 weeks.

With the economy still lurking in a grim down-turn and advertising being hard to come by, it is the major events that still attract audiences and advertisers and CBS has a tent-pole with March Madness. But, by the numbers, for my money the audience is moving online, and companies like content delivery network Akamai increasingly stand to benefit as higher-quality (read: more expensive) live streaming and content downloads build out an even more expansive user base in the years to come.

Disclosure: Author does not own any of the companies mentioned

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