Solid start for early rounds of March Madness
TV ratings inch up, which is always notable in this era of declining viewership
March 20, 2017
There were few upsets in the early rounds of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
But with a plethora of popular teams playing, including defending champ Villanova, Notre Dame and Arizona, Thursday’s action actually saw ratings rise over last year.
Since very little on television produces viewership gains these days, that’s worth a tip of the hat, though it remains to be seen whether March Madness sustained that momentum through the weekend.
On Thursday night, the only NCAA ratings available so far, the four networks televising games averaged a 5.9 household rating, according to Nielsen, up 5 percent from a collective 5.6 rating last year on CBS, tru TV, TBS and TNT.
That tied 2011 as the third-best first Thursday on record, matching the year Turner started showing games.
What to make of that? It could reflect the poor weather across much of the Northeast last week. With snowstorms making travel difficult, people may have chosen to stay in to watch games rather than going to bars or parties.
Viewership peaked in primetime with a 7.2 average from 6:45 to 10 p.m., rising 9 percent from last year.
Strong online viewership
Interestingly, the gains didn’t come from people moving from online back to TV. Digital continued to see the same strong year-to-year increases in viewership as it has in recent years, indicating that many people aren’t choosing one over the other but likely supplementing their viewership with the second option.
The NCAA said the March Madness Live app recorded 29 million live video starts, up 19 percent from last year, with Princeton’s near-upset of Notre Dame getting the most concurrent views.
Digital continues to offer impressive potential for future viewing – the app has improved over the years so as to stream nearly as smoothly as TV, and the NCAA this year made it available on devices such as Roku, increasing its potential audience.
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