March Madness is just getting underway, said Eric Benderoff in the Chicago Tribune, but there's already one big winner—CBS. The network has hauled in huge audiences since putting the annual NCAA basketball tournament online for free four years ago. Internet-generated revenue from the tournament has climbed from $4 million in 2006 to an expected $30 million this year—which is why CBS' little experiment has "changed how networks view sports on the Internet."
Yes, but online revenue might be coming "at the expense of the company's cash cow, its television business," said Jeff Segal and Rob Cox in The New York Times. "Last year, the tournament averaged 10 percent fewer viewers than in 2004, according to Nielsen." CBS has to figure out how to keep TV ad sales steady, while making extra cash online, to see its $6 billion, 11-year tournament contract pay off.
The deal is already paying off for fans, said Leslie Warren in National Ledger. Stuck at the office during the big game? No problem, just go the NCAA website, or CBSSports.com, and your problem is solved. "It's simple and with this economy, the best thing about it is that it is free!"