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Another way to phone it in.


In a perfect world, the same phone you used to call in sick on Thursday morning would be the same thing you used, hours later, to watch the NCAA Tournament games live as you sat in the airport bar waiting for your flight to Las Vegas.

And what would be a less-than-perfect ending, the caller ID showing on the same device Monday morning would be human resources informing you that your services are no longer needed at the company.

Let's play it smart out there, smart-phone boy.

Stealing company time to watch tournament games free on the office computer screen is already risky business. Even that cheesy "Boss Page" fake spreadsheet is a tough sell.

Try phoning it in instead.

AT&T customers are the ahead-of-the-test-market curve this year for a new iPhone application (along with the iTouch) that has access to all CBS' live NCAA game video, powered by MobiTV. There is a $4.99 fee, and the only hitch is the need for WiFi access (the 3G service will only get you audio from the TV call). And to be patient trying to buy it with so many clicking onto it through iTunes.

Depending on your i-resourcefulness, you could be in the board meeting, making it look as if you're checking e-mail from a client named Duke Binghamton without looking bored.

Last year, Verizon Wireless customers with the correct phones and plans had video access, but just one feed. Same this year. AT&T's LG Vu, LG Invision, Samsung Access and Samsung Eternity also can get a multi-game video stream.

But as anyone with an iPhone can attest, there's a world of difference, gadget-wise.

Even if the universe of potential users for this access may be miniscule, it's another test case for the power of the NCAA Tournament's reach for the insta-user.

"Because the tournament is over a couple of weeks, and it happens all day long, not in just one time window or a one-time event, the value of trying this is higher now with all the multiple opportunities," Jeff Sellinger, the executive vice president and general manager of CBS mobile, said as he sat in his Television City offices near Farmer's Market in Los Angeles, testing the iPhone in one hand and the AT&T FLO phone in the other.

"It's pretty satisfying to see this work. People who buy this are the fanatics who'll find the hot-spots to use the Wifi. The application is already the fourth-most popular paid on the service and it hasn't been out very long. But it's March madness. It doesn't get much better than this."

If the March Madness on Demand that was introduced a year ago on and is the greatest innovation for the NCAA Tournament consumption - and this year's high-quality video option is phenomenal - the iPhone application may be a close second for those who've harnessed the specialness of the multi-purpose device.

Along with DirecTV's stay-at- home "Mega March Madness" package for $69, this is another step toward ending the reliance on the over-the-air CBS telecast of network-knee-jerk cuts from one game to another, a system that tries to please everyone but more often frustrates anyone.

Recession logic may lead to the conclusion that all tech gadgets are now luxury items. But therewere 17 million iPhones sold through 2008, and some analysts predict the number will reach 45 million by the end of this year. For those who can't afford not to have it, there seem to be enough "connect to the madness" stimulus packages offered by major electronics stores now. Cell-phone sales for this event are being pushed as hard as flat-screen TVs would be during Super Bowl week.

Special extended plans are also offered, as well as coordinating college-logo cases for the phones. A customer rep is more than happy to demonstrate how to access scores, stats, schedules and brackets with a warm touch of the finger.

The NCAA figures that the college-age demographic, as well as the affluent techno buyer, is the perfect guinea pig for this means of tournament consumption.

"This is a very complex test model, but also the best," said Sellinger. "If you want to push things forward, you're going to have to go after difficult things. But the reality of it -- who doesn't love March madness? I can see people huddling around someone with either an iPhone or watching it online just as easily as finding it on TV."

Phillips' plan: Fix the U.S. approach, not the WBC

Steve Phillips' spring training as an ESPN baseball game analyst with Joe Morgan and Jon Miller for the '09 MLB season begins this weekend at Dodger Stadium when the three cover the World Baseball Classic's semifinals and finals for the network.

The three-week event, which has had its share of tremendous stories and head-scratching moments, couldn't have a much better proponent behind the microphone than Phillips, the former New York Mets' general manager. "Among most baseball people, maybe I'm in the minority, but I love it," said Phillips, in San Diego this week doing Pool 1 broadcasts, including the Japan-Korea contest Thursday. "The whole concept is phenomenal. There have been some unbelievable stories."

ESPN so far has been averaging a 1.3 rating, up from 1.0 from the first 2006 tournament. ESPN Deportes, using Juan Marichal and Candy Maldonado on the telecasts, has also seen a jump with a 1.9 rating in Hispanic households.

Key injuries to the U.S. squad, plus a mercy-rule loss along the way and a near international incident throwing behind a Dutch hitter drew more attention leading up to the U.S. team's defining 6-5, ninth-inning comeback win over Puerto Rico on Tuesday to put it in the final four.

Phillips advocates the American team attending a combine several weeks before spring training starts to catch up with others who play more winter ball around the world. Having players commit to the squad in a way NBA stars have done with the "Dream Team" for the Summer Olympic would also cut down on confusion about how to prepare.

"We shouldn't think, 'What's the problem with the World Baseball Classic,' it's 'What's the problem with the U.S.?"' Phillips said. "Maybe we are focused on trying to fix the wrong thing.

"If I'm a general manager, I'm not looking to eliminate the World Baseball Classic, but looking for more structure so we can say we did everything we could to eliminate any kind of issues with injuries. It's easy to see a player get hurt during the WBC and say, 'Aha, I told you it wouldn't work.' Players get hurt in spring training just as easily."

Right, Manny?


photo, 2 boxes


Part of the application for the iPhone on AT&T during the NCAA basketball tournament is access to a running scoreboard as well as live video of four games.



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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Mar 20, 2009
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