The first five days of NCAA Men’s College Basketball Tournament -- Thursday through Monday -- witnessed viewership 18% lower to an average 2.5 million Nielsen-measured viewers.
In 2019, an average 3.04 million viewers per game was registered through the second round. Last year’s NCAA March Madness event was cancelled, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
CBS viewing sank 20% to 4.7 million (5.9 million in 2019) across 15 games, while TBS with 14 games was up 2% to 2.36 million; TNT, with 12 games, falling down 16% to 1.7 million; and TruTV with over 11 games slipped 2% to 1.2 million.
This year’s viewing decline is partially attributable to eight second-round games -- typically higher-interest and more competitive contests -- being played on Mondays. This includes two Monday daytime games on CBS. In 2019, all second-round games ran in the generally higher TV viewing weekend days, Saturday and Sunday.
CBS' top three games on the first Sunday of the event -- Syracuse-West Virginia (7.86 million); Wisconsin-Baylor (7.74 million); and Loyola/Illinois-Illinois (6.2 million) -- were lower than the top three CBS games on the first Sunday of the 2019 event: UCF/Duke (12.9 million); Washington/UNC (8.9 million); and Iowa/Tennessee (6.6 million).
Also in 2019, CBS also scored big numbers on the first Saturday of the event -- with 9 million viewers for the Wofford/Kentucky contest and 8.9 million for Florida/Michigan.
This year, WarnerMedia networks had its best results on the weekend, with TBS’ Oregon State-Oklahoma St. (3.6 million) on Sunday and TBS’ Iowa-Grand Canyon (3.17 million) on Saturday.
TBS and TruTV also scored strong results on the opening First Four games on Thursday -- up from 17% to 80% versus the same games in 2019.