It appears that ESPN has ambushed CBS' major investment in the NCAA Tournament by using an unexpected resource--President Barack Obama.
President Obama filled out his tournament bracket on ABC's Good Morning America. ESPN then had a longer segment with the President and Andy Katz where Obama made his picks from the White House Map Room. The segment aired multiple times on ESPN during the day.
The result? Sports fans filling out brackets are picking ESPN.com with more than five million filled-out brackets. That's a 37% increase over last year. At its peak, fans were registering their brackets at a rate of 3,900 per minute, or 65 per second. That's a lot of misused time in the office!
CBS, of course, owns the rights to the NCAA Tournament, both for television and the web. The network said that it has sold $30 million in online advertising against the tourney, up from $23 million a year ago. But, the success of ESPN's site, with the President's help, has to hurt the "official" network of the tournament.
As the tournament continues this online battle will continue to play out. Will ESPN have enough content to bring consumers back versus the tournament video and other extras they can get on CBSSportsline.com? We shall see...