March Madness: Soft Early Ratings, Higher Ad Sales

NCAA Men’s College Basketball Tournament has seen softer TV ratings through the initial days of the games, but higher overall national advertising revenue.

Through the first four days of the tournament, national TV advertisers spent $378.9 million -- 250 brands running 488 spots, according to iSpot.tv. This data includes CBS, TBS, TNT, truTV networks, and CBS Sports Network. 

Top advertisers so far this year are AT&T, with $21.9 million in national TV advertising followed by the NCAA at $15.9 million; Capital One with $12.0 million; Southwest Airlines at $11.2 million; and Buick with $10.9 million.

A year ago, $329.9 million was spent over the first four days of the tournament -- with some 220 brands running 395 spots on the same networks. In 2015, through the first weekend, AT&T spent $20.1 million, followed by GMC at $12.3 million; Buick with $10.6 million; the NCAA at 10.1 million; and Capital One with $9.97 million.

In the first two days of the 2016 tournament, for 32 games across four networks -- CBS, TNT, TBS and truTV -- total viewers are down 6% to a Nielsen average of 8.85 million viewers; with 18-49 viewers slipping 7% to 3.0. Young men ages 18-34 are down 18% to 3.52 average ratings.

Looking at specific networks, CBS posted a Nielsen live program-plus-same day rating of 4.52 million total viewers, down 2% from a year ago; with 18-49 viewers down 4% to 1.37 Nielsen rating. TNT is down 24% to 1.6 million and is off 28% in 18-49 viewers to a 0.60 rating.

On the flip side, TBS is up 18% to 1.75 million viewers and 24% higher in 18-49 viewers to a 0.68 rating. 

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