College hoops hype rises, productivity plummets

Georgetown\'s Otto Porter Jr. (22) goes up as Cincinnati\'s Cashmere Wright (1) looks on during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game at the Big East Conference tournament, Thursday, March 14, 2013 in New York. Georgetown won 62-43. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Nick Iannelli,

WASHINGTON – It’s March Madness time again.

The college basketball tournament officially gets underway on Tuesday, and businesses are bracing for a drop in productivity and in Internet speeds as employees start watching the games while at work.

Nearly one-third of employees spend at least three hours each day following the games during work hours, according to a survey by outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

The survey by MSN and Impulse Research finds 66 percent of workers will watch at least a little of the action while on the clock. One in five people will spend two hours following the games, while 14 percent will spend three to four hours doing so at work. Sixteen percent will spend five hours or more glued to the games, rather than working.

March Madness will cost American companies $134 million in lost wages.

The tournament is not expected to affect any company’s bottom line, but it will make its mark.

“At the end of the day, March Madness will not even register as a blip in the overall economy. Sequestration is going to have a far bigger impact,” says John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, in a news release.

Based on tournament averages, Challenger estimates the tournament will draw at least 3 million online viewers.

“March Madness will definitely have an impact on the flow of work, particularly during the first week of the tournament,” Challenger says.

“Starting the day after selection Sunday, people will be organizing office pools, researching teams and planning viewing parties,” he says.

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