Swish: Super start for March Madness
Thursday's coverage draws best viewership in 22 years
March 25, 2013
March Madness is off to a historic start.
On Sunday a 15 seed, Florida Gulf Coast, made it to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time in tournament history.
And last Thursday, CBS and the Turner networks drew the tourney’s best opening-day viewership in 22 years.
The first night of second-round coverage, the most recent numbers available from Nielsen, averaged 8.1 million total viewers, the best start since 1991, when the tourney expanded to four telecast windows.
The coverage on CBS, TNT, TBS and truTV drew a 5.5 household rating, up 4 percent over last year’s 5.3. It was the best rating for the opening round since 1994.
Including the First Four games on Turner, the four play-in games that whittle the second-round field to 64 teams, the NCAA men’s basketball tournament has averaged 7.4 million viewers, up 7 percent over 6.9 million last year.
Some of the gains are no doubt due to the growing awareness of cable coverage of the first round.
This is the third year that Turner is showing games along with CBS, which means that every single second- and third-round game is carried on television.
Before cable came aboard the deal in 2011, CBS only aired regional coverage and the occasional game on CBS Sports Network, its cable channel.
But now, with all games available, viewers might notice the score of a tight game when they check the game results online, then snap on their TVs to catch coverage that wasn’t available just a few years ago.
Other factors helped ratings, too. The broadcast competition certainly isn’t what it used to be. Thursday shows like “Grey’s Anatomy” and “American Idol” aren’t as strong as they were in past years, and aren’t drawing viewers away from March Madness as they once did.
Finally, there were a number of exciting games Thursday, including No. 1 seed Gonzaga’s surprisingly close win over Southern, No. 14 Harvard’s upset of No. 3 New Mexico, and No. 12 Cal’s squeaker of a win over No. 5 UNLV.
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