March Madness' Top Cinderella Story is the Web

By Derek Thompson

Cable TV is doomed, Max Fisher wrote last week. As broadband access and online content channels like Hulu and Apple and YouTube develop sustainable business models, more Americans will migrate from their cable box toward their computers, where television will be cheaper, on-demand and on-the-go.

I'm still holding out to see how Websites like Hulu grow from ad-only networks to ad-plus-a la carte pricing (ie, you pay for most shows with your eyeballs, but some shows require actual cash) to online bundling deals that use cable's business model but undercut the price because there are no installation or hardware fees for a website.

But it's important to note that to a certain extent, Max's prediction of the television's migration to the Web is already coming true. March Madness offers the perfect opportunity to capture the nation's readiness to live-stream broadcasts through their computers because it's a live sports event that is on all day with financial implications for the millions of Americans who put money against their brackets. And live-streaming is up 20% over last year already. In fact the double-overtime first round game between Florida and BYU had 50% more traffic than any day one game in 2009.

Of course, the wonderful thing about watching sports on CBS.com (or the big news stories on MSNBC.com) is that we're looking at a model that is even simpler than Hulu or Apple TV. There is no middle man. The TV lives between the network Website and your eyeballs, and the price is your patience through occasional Web ads. CBS doesn't appear to be experiencing much drop-off on TV, however. March Madness ratings are up 13% over 2009.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2010/03/march-madness-top-cinderella-story-is-the-web/37821/