CBS, NCAA play ball with online TV

Subscribers gain access to games via P.C.

CBS and the NCAA are partnering with College Sports Television to create NCAA March Madness on Demand, a subscription service that will offer online streaming video of college basketball games during the upcoming NCAA tournament.

Via any of those three entities’ Web sites, subscribers can sign up to gain access to an interface that allows them to watch any of the tourney’s first 56 games on their computers, either live or on demand after the game has ended.

Subscribers will be prevented from watching the games broadcast on their local CBS affil while those games are live, but they will have access to those games on demand after they end.

A subscription will cost $19.95, or half that figure if purchased by Feb. 8.

CSTV has officially acquired exclusive video streaming rights to the tourney’s out-of-market games for an undisclosed number of years and will oversee the production of the subscription service.

‘Aggressive’ promotion

In a conference call Thursday, CBS Sports prexy Sean McManus said his company and the NCAA picked CSTV over several other possible partners because “their plan for promoting the project was most aggressive.”

CSTV manages the official athletics department Web sites of more than 170 individual universities and conferences, and will use that network to promote its new venture. Subscription service is looking to attract fans who want to watch the games from their office computers.

Tournament games have been broadcast online before, by CBS Sports’ Web site last year and by Yahoo! the previous year.

In addition to the games themselves, NCAA March Madness on Demand will include other features, such as highlights, interviews and stats, some of which will be free to nonsubscribers.

CSTV already runs an online subscription service called College Sports Pass, which encompasses many different sports, in addition to the television net College Sports TV.