In 1999, CBS’ $6 billion, 11-year pact with the NCAA for rights to the men’s basketball tournament looked drastically overpriced to many analysts. But with Selection Sunday this weekend, the deal doesn’t seem so crazy, thanks to a prescient addition: new-media rights. CBS has nearly sold out its online ad inventory, the Wall Street Journal reports, and expects online revenue to amount to $30 million, up 30% from 2008.
CBS streams games to cell phones and laptops, and broadcasts them via DirectTV and its own CBS College Sports cable outlet. “These different platforms were just a gleam in somebody’s eye when the deal was signed,” said one consultant. “Now, they are very real.” CBS probably won’t profit from this year’s tournament, but there’s time on the clock—the deal doesn’t expire until 2013.