Turner and CBS said viewership for Thursday's first batch of Sweet 16 games improved on last year by 14%, as the NCAA tournament moved into its second week. One sure reason: all four games were shown in their entirety in every market, unlike in previous years, in which CBS had to make some unavailable in particular areas.
On TBS and CBS, the four games combined to average 12 million viewers. Household ratings, according to early Nielsen returns, were up 15% to a 7.6 on Thursday night, which marked the highest in 17 years.
Overall for the tournament this year, with all games available across four networks, total viewing is up by 13% over a year ago. Through Thursday, the average was 8.8 million vs. 7.8 million in 2010. The 8.8 million is also a 17-year high.
This year's numbers include four more games than a year ago, which actually may have slightly lessened the average, since those were effectively play-in games on TruTV.
In household ratings for the full tournament this year, the household average rating is a 5.7, up 14% from 2010. Among men 18 to 34, viewing for the tournament is up 38%.