March Madness Comes To Microsoft's Media Center

Dennis Faas's picture

Microsoft is attempting to boost use of its Media Center tools by offering a sports channel. The programming kicks off with extensive coverage of college basketball's March Madness.

The new channel, which goes live this week, will include footage from Fox, MSNBC and CBS. There will be no subscription charge or other costs. The footage is only available in the Vista edition and is not compatible with the Windows 7 Beta. (Source:

To launch the channel, Microsoft will be showing replays of those games in the final stages of the NCAA basketball tournament. The event, known as March Madness (though it extends into April), is popular with even non-basketball fans as it traditionally inspires friendly wagers amongst office staff.

No Dead Time

For every game in the first two rounds, the Microsoft channel will show post-match interviews and either brief game highlights or extended coverage of the closing minutes for matches with an exciting finish.

For high-profile matches in the first two rounds, and all games after this, the broadcasts will be condensed versions. That means the entire game will be shown, but commercial breaks, time-outs, half-time and periods where the ball is out of play will all be cut out. (Source:

Microsoft won't be showing March Madness games live as the exclusive rights to that coverage online belong to CBS. That means Microsoft might lose out on the growing audience of office workers who watch daytime games.

However, Microsoft has secured a deal for CBS to offer live games in high quality streaming video using Microsoft's Silverlight technology rather than a rival system such as Flash. CBS was already using Windows Media Player for lower quality video. The two sides haven't revealed financial terms of the deal, though it's believed Microsoft will spend heavily on advertising to appear next to the CBS video feeds.

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