Microsoft’s Silverlight Scores on ‘March Madness’

Microsoft’s Silverlight made another slam dunk this week in its heated rivalry against Adobe Flash, with CBS Sports and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) announcing plans to use the streaming media technology during the upcoming March Madness college basketball championship.

As a result, Silverlight will power high-definition online video from the tournament.

“NCAA March Madness on Demand will have an additional, high-definition quality video player available for users when action from the 2009 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship begins,” CBS Sports said in a statement.

The service will start operation on March 10, and will stream highlights from previous championships until this year’s tournament games begin nine days later.

The move is another high-profile, high-viewership play by Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) in an effort to popularize Silverlight, which is trying to make headway against its main competitor, Adobe’s (NASDAQ: ADBE) Flash technology.

Last month, the inauguration of President Obama used Silverlight to stream live coverage. Microsoft also provided Silverlight technology to stream the Beijing Olympics for NBC.

However, Microsoft has also had a loss or two along the way. Most notably, Major League Baseball announced last fall that it was dropping use of Silverlight and going back to Flash for streaming games.

Silverlight was introduced less than two years ago and, in that time, has reached version 2, which includes support for .NET programming languages.

March Madness viewers will be able to download the standard player and then upgrade to the high-definition Silverlight player, a Microsoft spokesperson said in an e-mail to The standard player streams at 550 kbps while the Silverlight player streams at up to 1.5 mbps. Both are free.

Interested viewers can visit the March Madness on Demand site to download the Silverlight plug-in.

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