Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

A March Madness Win for Microsoft: CBS Taps Silverlight

march-madness-cbsDo you love college basketball but hate Microsoft? Then CBS has a tough choice in store for you next month.

That’s because the network will be delivering its March Madness coverage using Redmond’s Silverlight streaming media technology, which for some reason stirs apoplectic emotions among a subset of tech zealots. Supposedly these folks would rather look at a blank screen than use dreaded Microsoft (MSFT) tech.

Why? Got me. I downloaded Silverlight onto my MacBook to watch NBC’s Olympics Webcasts last summer. And whenever I could find the events I wanted to watch (much harder than it should have been), I got a really great picture on my laptop.

So did some 40 million other people, which was why Microsoft wanted so desperately to get the rights to the event–it is trying very hard to gain some ground on rival Adobe’s (ADBE) Flash technology, the de facto standard for Web video. So it spends a lot of time focusing on big Web video events where it can introduce its tech to consumers.

[UPDATE: CBS wants you to know — see comment below — that you don’t have to use Silverlight to watch the games online.]

March Madness isn’t nearly as big as the Olympics, of course: Last year, some 4.8 million people watched the tournament via CBS’s Webcast. But it’s a very big deal for CBS (CBS), which generated more than $20 million in extra advertising revenue out of the event. No word on what Microsoft had to pony up in order to get the rights this year, but Les Moonves and company certainly didn’t give them away.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik