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While March Madness is in Play, Businesses Will Pay (in Lost Productivity)

“March is on,” and from March 19 to April 6, fan excitement and the revenue will be at Super Bowl pitch.

| BY Donald Liebenson

Every party needs its pooper. NCAA Tournament, meet John Oliver, who in a blistering segment on his HBO series, “Last Week Tonight” on Sunday, all but compared college athletics to a sweatshop and dubbed the annual billion-dollar tournament, where the athletes are paid a penny, “March Sadness.”

But, as the TV ads proclaim, “March is on,” and from March 19 to April 6, when the championship game will be played in Indianapolis, the fan excitement and the revenue will be of Super Bowl proportions.

WalletHub compiled some staggering stats that put the madness in March. CBS/Turner Broadcasting paid $10.8 billion for the TV rights to the 2011-2024 NCAA Tournaments. The ad revenue from last year’s tournament alone was $1.13 billion, up 1.5 percent from 2013 (A 30-second spot to play during last year’s tournament was $1.5 million). Indianapolis stands to reap a $70.8 million benefit as host of the Final Four.

The stat that gets the most play every year is the estimated hourly corporate losses suffered by corporations due to workers concentrating more on their brackets and the games than they are to their work. According to outplacement company Challenger, Gray & Christmas’ annual March Madness Report, this year’s cost to companies could reach as high as $1.9 billion.

“That figure may be on the conservative side, considering this year could garner a lot more interest from even casual basketball fans eager to see if (top seeded) Kentucky can continue its undefeated season through the tournament,” Chief Executive Officer John A. Challenger, said in a statement, and jokingly added,  “If Kentucky plays their first tournament game during the workday, it wouldn’t be shocking if every single working person in the state called in sick…or took an extra-long lunch break.”

It is estimated that more than 60 million Americans fill out tournament brackets. This is a calculation not taken lightly. It is easier to win back-to-back MegaMillions lotteries buying one ticket each time than it is to fill out a perfect bracket. But that perfect bracket could net you $1 billion if you enter the contest fronted by Quicken Loans and Berkshire Hathaway.

It is not a stretch then, to presume that workers take time out of their workday to research the teams online. The tournament is especially distracting during the first two full days of play when a dozen games are playing during work hours, the March Madness Report figures.

But corporations don't seem to be too concerned. Typical was a response to Millionaire Corner from an IBM spokesperson: "We have no (Tournament) policy. It's not really an issue at all for us."

Other fun March Madness facts:

  • $2.5 billion is wagered illegally each year during March Madness
  • Between 17 and 18 million barrels of American beer are produced in March, compared with 14 million in the average month
  • There is a 19 percent increase in pizza orders by fans after losses vs. wins.
  • >Likewise, there is a 9 percent increase in dessert orders/li>

About the Author

Donald Liebenson

Donald Liebenson writes news and features for Millionaire Corner. He has been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fiscal Times, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, and other outlets. He has also served as a marketing writer for Chicago-based Questar Entertainment and distributor Baker & Taylor.  

A graduate of the University of Southern California, he is married with a college-age son. He also writes extensively about entertainment.