Video: Internet heightens 'March Madness'

By George Lewis Correspondent
NBC News
updated 3/16/2006 9:30:27 PM ET 2006-03-17T02:30:27

For the next 19 days, American workers will be distracted by NCAA basketball. In addition to all those betting pools, now for the first time, every single game is on the Internet, live and free of charge.

Many people logging in today had to put up with long waits, as hundreds of thousands of Americans tried to get to CBSSportsline.com.

At America Online, they tolerate employees doing this. But some companies don't like it one bit. At Omni-Duct Systems in Anaheim, Calif., information technology manager Mike Delawder has blocked access to the games and all sports Web sites. Too tempting, he says.

What if an employee wanted to "Google" the UCLA score?

"You wouldn't be able to do it," Delawder says. "You might be able to get to the university, but as far as the athletics department, it would be blocked."

Meanwhile, at UCLA, home of the Bruins, and incidentally, the place where the Internet was born, school of engineering professor Leonard Kleinrock says too many people watching the games at once can seriously clog corporate computer networks.

"If you begin to get 50, 100 people in an organization that has only a moderate access line, you're going to see some problems," he says.

Now if you're using a company computer to watch basketball and the boss is approaching your desk, there's a feature on CBSSportsline.com called the "boss button." Click on it, the game turns off and up comes a spread sheet. Yes sir, you can say, "I'll have those first quarter numbers for you right away."

And speaking of those numbers, one consulting firm estimates that March Madness could cost corporate America $4 billion in lost productivity. But look at it this way — somebody's going to win $100 in the office pool.

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