07:18 PM

Mobile Video Costs Employers

Watching just the most recent bout of college basketball playoffs during work hours cost employers an estimated $3.8 billion in lost productivity, according to outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

TV, movie, and sports fans who can't quit the habit have more options than ever for dialing into their sin.

This week, CBS Sportsline announced that it had served more than 14 million streams of live video from the 2006 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship and recorded more than four million visitors during the first four days of the tournament, breaking Internet traffic records.

The impact of so many people watching basketball games during work hours was estimated by outplacement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas to cost employers an estimated $3.8 billion in lost productivity, based on a 2005 Gallup poll indicating that 41 percent of Americans are fans of college basketball.

And basketball is not all they're watching. Last week America Online launched AOL Television, or In2TV. Now anyone with a broadband connection can watch online episodes of 4,800 old TV shows, including Welcome Back Kotter and Growing Pains for free.

More content is on the way, as AOL taps into its Warner Brothers archives and starts charging $1.99 for downloads, the same pricing model that Apple is using.

Apple is at the vanguard of the pay-per-download video explosion with its popular iTunes service. This month it announced the launch of its first monthly subscription service. For $9.99, fans of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart will be able to buy the next month's series of 16 new episodes. Four episodes air each week and viewers can download each episode after it's been broadcast. Individual shows are priced at $1.99 each.

The relatively new phenomenon of video podcasting, in the form of vlogs or vodcasts is adding content to the Internet daily. Video podcasts come in all styles, from the informative Photoshop TV to the endearingly nutty Tiki Bar TV.

Employers wise to the lure of such goodies are turning to Web filtering software, which aims to block access to classes of Web sites, or specific URLs offering sports, gambling, porn, and other distracting content.

Undettered, video fans are in turn using their mobile devices to get their fixes.

College basketball fans away from TVs and computers can follow the March Madness thrills on their 3G Cingular cell phones equipped with the company's MEdiaNet package, which costs $19.99 per month. Cingular offers video clips of the games. Neither Cingular nor CBS Sportsline would divulge how much traffic comes from cell phones.

Alternatively, the games can be downloaded from iTunes and viewed on iPods, laptops, or PCs. Games are priced at $1.99 each, or by subscription. Apple also offers downloads of classic men's NCAA games dating to the 1980s.

Clips from The Daily Show with Jon Stewart are included in Verizon's V Cast package, along with other content from Comedy Central, plus music videos, movie trailers, news and sports headlines, clips from CNN and ABC News and more. The monthly fee is $15.00.

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