No cooling down for March Madness
Tourney drawing strongest viewership in 19 years
April 1, 2013
The Cinderella teams that generated so much buzz during the opening weekend of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament were sent home in week two, but the event still kept up its ratings momentum.
Through Saturday’s games, March Madness is drawing its biggest audience in 19 years.
The tourney has averaged 9.4 million total viewers per game, according to Nielsen, up 9 percent over 8.6 million last year.
It’s tied with the 1994 tourney as the best in 19 years, though back then games were shown on only one network, CBS.
Since 2011, coverage has been split between four networks: CBS, TBS, TNT and truTV.
The games have averaged a 6.1 household rating, also 9 percent better than last year, and tied with 2005 as the best in 15 years.
Friday’s regional semifinals, which featured the highly anticipated Duke-Michigan State and Florida Gulf Coast-Florida games, drew the best rating for that round in 23 years.
Turner and CBS averaged an 8.9 rating, increasing by 20 percent over last year’s 7.4.
The momentum should continue into next weekend with three traditional basketball powerhouses making the Final Four, which always drives ratings.
Though teams such as 15th-seeded FGC and La Salle, another low-seeded squad that advanced to the Sweet 16, generate lots of attention and excitement in the early rounds, the later rounds tend to draw better ratings when better-known programs advance.
Michigan moved on to its first Final Four since the Fab Five made it to back-to-back title games two decades ago.
Louisville, with legendary coach Rick Pitino, topped Duke on Sunday to advance to the Final Four as well following a gruesome injury to Kevin Ware, which seemed to give the team an emotional spark.
And Syracuse moved into the national semis riding the momentum of a surprising upset of No. 1 seed Indiana earlier in the weekend, its fourth Final Four appearance under coach Jim Boeheim.
The only mid-major squad in the Final Four is Wichita State, which became the first Missouri Valley Conference squad to make it this far since Larry Bird’s college days at Indiana State.
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