Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Hoops to Go: CBS Streaming March Madness to iPhone

cbs-march-madnessMore catnip for the convergence optimists, who dream about getting to watch anything they want on any device they choose: In addition to streaming all of its March Madness coverage on the Web, CBS is also letting iPhone and iPod touch owners watch the college basketball tournament on their devices.

Most sports/Web/mobile experiments have way too many caveats to make them really interesting–last month, when Time Warner’s (TWX) Turner let iPhone users stream the NBA All Star game, for instance, it wasn’t letting them watch the actual telecast of the game, just a series of alternate takes. But this is the real deal–you’ll see the actual CBS telecast, for all the games, commercials and all.

Of course, there are still asterisks with this one. It only works with WiFi, not a 3G wireless connection, which means you have to be fairly close to a computer to watch this on your phone. So why not watch it on that computer? Also, it’s not gratis: CBS (CBS) is selling the “NCAA March Madness on Demand” app for $4.99 on Apple’s (AAPL) iTunes store.

It’s an interesting inversion of the clichéd-but-true “analog dollars for digital pennies” phenomenon, whereby traditional content loses value as soon as it moves to the Web. In this case, CBS is asking you to pay money for something you could normally get for free.

But consumers, or at least early adopters who ingest content on their mobile phones, seem OK with this proposition. Presumably, that’s because they’re trading cash for convenience. I’m not quite sure how this will play out with college basketball, where those who really care about the games are going to get themselves in front of a big screen. But it’s cool to have it available, period.

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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