CBSSports.com live streaming LSU-Alabama football game online a watershed for industry

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Jim O'Neil

 

The Masters, March Madness and even the Olympics all, to a varying degree, have had their moments in the sun that is online video. But on Saturday, CBSSports.com is taking the weekend's premier college football game, No. 1 LSU versus No. 2 Alabama online... and it's going to be, as ABC Sports announcer Keith Jackson said, a doozy.

The game is the first time the SEC has had a regular season match-up between the No. 1 and No.2 ranked teams in the nation, and it's creating the hubbub you would expect.

As Jason Kint, SVP and GM of CBSSports.com said: "It's the biggest football game ever across all platforms."

And, he said, he sees it as a potential turning point in the industry.

"Everybody talks about having quality content online," he said. "There's a lot of video out there and more quality is making its way to digital platforms... there's nothing better than the NCAA tournament, the Masters and SEC football. But this is No. 1 versus No. 2. As an industry, as we talk about getting more key events onto the platform, this is a major milestone. A break through."

And, he said, it has a halo effect, for the sponsors that have been with the SEC streaming initiative from the start and for CBS itself.

"The sponsors going into season could only hope for this," he said. "And for us, well, what it brings to our brand is very big."

CBSSports.com has streamed an SEC game of the week and the conference championship game for several years on its website and to iOS devices. The audience has been solid, Kint said, hovering just under six figures each game.

That's likely to change this weekend.

"It'll be over that," he said. "Last year's SEC championship game was good, but it wasn't two undefeated teams, ranked No. 1 and No. 2. We know we'll have a solid audience, but the big wild-card will be the mobile audience. Primetime. Saturday night."

Kint said CBSSports.com has spent a lot of time developing and fine- tuning its offering. There have always been discussions about streaming an event that's already on TV... obviously, there have to be concerns that it might cannibalize the TV audience.

There's little worry about that this week.

"On weekends, most people have access to a TV, and they'll want to watch on the biggest screen they can find," he said. "But we (still) think a lot of people will be watching on iOS devices, especially on the iPad. It could be a very big number."

The iPad, Kint said, adds another dimension to watching the game--it allows viewers to chat and make it an even more social experience.

And, he adds, "the quality of the video on that device is fabulous... if you can't be in front of your television, that's probably the best device you can have."

Kint said the CBS Sports team isn't worried about any technical glitches, it has had a lot of experience developing expertise with March Madness and the Masters. "We've dealt with it before," he said.

In addition, the game, which starts at 8 p.m. and airs on CBS, is available at CBSSports.com and via CBS Sports Mobile (for Apple's iPhone and iPad). CBSSports.com has a full slate of  features and expert commentary streaming daily. You can find that lineup here.

For Kint, the game this weekend may be big (some have added it to their list of "Games of the Century"), but it isn't the game. He's an Ohio State Buckeye fan. As everyone knows, THE GAME takes place this year in Ann Arbor Nov. 26 when the Buckeyes play Michigan.--Jim