NCAA Tourney Nets Highest Ratings In Decades


High numbers were gained for the official first big day of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. 

CBS Sports and Turner Sports say their multinetwork airing of Thursday's second-round coverage, which featured many big-name teams, posted ratings 24% higher than a year ago -- the best numbers in two decades.

The combined viewership of CBS, TBS, TNT and truTV coverage of games pulled in a Nielsen preliminary 5.7 household rating/13 share, the highest results since 1991. CBS, TBS, TNT and truTV averaged 7.4 million total viewers, up 16% over CBS Sports' 2010 viewership.

This year, the entire second round of games was aired -- due to the new CBS Sports/Turner Sports agreement where all games will be complete on either the CBS broadcast network or one of Turner's three cable networks.



In looking at four specific dayparts, the tournament grabbed better ratings than numbers obtained a year ago.

For the first telecast window of the day -- 12:00 noon to 4:15 p.m. -- the combined number of games pulled in a 4.4 household rating/15 share, up 42% higher than the 3.1/10 last year. Later in the afternoon, the second window of the day -- 3:00 to 6:45 p.m. EST -- posted 46% better numbers -- a 5.1/13 versus a 3.5/10 last year, the best daypart growth.

Next in prime time, the third telecast window of the day -- 7:00 to 9:45 p.m. -- delivered a 6.5/12, up 8% from a 6.0/11 in 2010. Later that night, the second prime-time games -- 9:15 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. EST -- took in a 6.9/13, a 13% gain from a 6.1/12 last year.

The lineup is different this year, given the new tournament format that featured 64 teams. In past years, ESPN aired opening round games before CBS took over with the bigger games on Thursday -- but not all games could be seen completely.

Tuesday first-round games posted 1.2 million viewers for its first game -- about 150,000 more than ESPN did a year ago. The Nielsen household rating was the same both years -- a 0.8 number. For the second game on truTV, the numbers were 1.35 million viewers and a 0.9 household rating.

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