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First (Round) Look: Uneven March Madness Video, iPhone Experience

This story was written by Staci D. Kramer.
This isn't one of those days when I can drop everything just to watch basketball; then again, it isn't just any basketball day. It's the first games of the first round of the NCAA Men's Div.1 Basketball tournament and after all the warm-up writing, it's time for some play by play. Your mileage may vary so please add your own experiences in the comments.

MMOD Player: The window in my browser insisted I should be able to watch CBSSports.com's NCAA March Madness On Demand Player but not so fast. The MMOD player is a no go for Firefox 3.0.7, showing only some HTML text and a Pontiac ad, although someone at CBSSports.com said he could see it on Firefox 2.0. Trying to watch in *Google* Chrome opens a pop-up warning that this is an unsupported platform and that the standard video player requires Windows XP or Vista, IE 6 or higher, and Media Player 9 or higher. The "high-quality" player requires Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) Silverlight 2; it doesn't mention the 3.0 beta released this week. (Microsoft is a March Madness advertiser.) Silverlight works on Macs, too, so might be the best option.

Video quality: If you like watching decent quality video, don't try the standard MMOD player full screen, at least not on a 24-inch wide-screen HP monitor. Blur city. (The almost-antique 15-inch flat-screen TV next to it doesn't look that great either.) Smaller is fine. The HQ player was much better; I could even read the tattoo on a player's neck but a good, clean picture is enough. The full-screen standard video player was still jagged on my smaller *Sony* Vaio TT with an 11" wide-screen monitor; the HQ was higher, indeed, but not as sharp as I'd expected. If CBS (NYSE: CBS) wants to prove the PC isn't a total TV substitute, good job. On the other hand, you can see the gamesany and all of themwithout paying one extra cent, and that's something I could only do on my TV if I'd paid DirecTV (NYSE: DTV) for the privilege. You have to have been around during the bleak TV-only years to truly appreciate that.

iPhone: Lots of folks on Twitter are raving about the iPhone app produced by CBS Mobile and MobiTV. So far, our experience has been wildly uneven, sort of like the way the Memphis Tigers played today. It took numerous tries to get the WiFi connection to hold long enough to see anything, then it conked out so often the iPhone's owner suggested it wasn't meant for viewing longer than 90 seconds or so. He did get one streak to last more than 10 minutes. This is the same WiFi that's holding steady for PCs on my home network, including the laptop now subbing as a dedicated TV for basketball, so not sure what's happening. Also, it doesn't default to the audio feed when WiFi doesn't connect, which is what I thought would happen. The timing between the TV and iPhone feeds has been erratic, which wouldn't matter to most people but could change a few last-minute bets.


By Staci D. Kramer