March 23, 2015

SKEDBALL: March Madness TV Ratings through the First Friday (Updated with Tournament Averages to Date)

A very normal set of ratings for the NCAA Basketball Tournament on Friday, March 20, the second and final day of the Round of 64.  After a very exciting Thursday with many upsets and close games, Friday was more by the book, with higher-seeded teams mostly winning (often with lopsided margins).  The ratings for the first two CBS games Friday (telecasts 21 and 22 in daytime) are not yet available, but the early prime time game (telecast 23: #1-Duke dismissing #16-Robert Morris 85-56) is right on target with past years in the time period, while the last CBS game Friday (telecast 24: #8-San Diego State beating #9-St John’s 76-64) was below last year’s level (returning to the 2013 audience level for the same slot).  The TBS games on Friday were generally in line with past years, while TNT was below recent highs for the two later games on Friday.  TRU TV was in line with past years for its Friday games.

March Madness 2013 to 2015 V2 through Friday 1 telecast 36


So far in 2015, CBS is averaging 4.6 million viewers in NCAA tournament coverage (for two prime time games on Thursday and two on Friday), well above the 3.8 million viewers the last two years but very similar to the 4.7 million in 2012.  (In the prior years, we are excluding the daytime CBS games to date to keep the comparisons as fair as possible.)  In contrast, the three cable networks carrying NCAA tournament games are each down from last year to date (TBS significantly down, while TNT and TRU are down marginally).  Bottom line, looking at all the networks together, NCAA tournament viewing in 2015 is very much in line with 2014 and up slightly from 2012 and 2013.

NCAA Basketball Tournament: PERSONS 2+ Audience Averages 

through first Friday (telecasts 1-36, excluding 5,6,21,22)

 2012 2013 2014 2015
CBS 4,730,000 3,850,000 3,868,000 4,609,000
 TNT 1,445,000 1,782,000 2,277,000 2,114,000
 TBS 1,642,000 1,811,000 1,676,000 1,486,000
 TRU 1,108,000 1,233,000 1,209,000 1,168,000
 All Nets 1,779,000 1,842,000 1,925,000 1,914,000

A similar story with the key sports sales demographic of men 18-49.  CBS in the first few days of this year’s tournament is up from the last two years but actually well below 2012.  Meanwhile, TBS is significantly below last year, TNT is a touch below last year and TRU is on par with last year’s demo rating.  On balance, though, overall viewing with men 18-49 is nearly identical with the last three years (as viewing has generally shifted from CBS to cable).

NCAA Basketball Tournament: MEN 18-49 Rating Averages

through first Friday (telecasts 1-36, excluding 5,6,21,22)

2012 2013 2014 2015
CBS 2.27 1.62 1.64 1.88
TNT 0.80 0.93 1.26 1.19
TBS 0.96 1.03 1.00 0.82
TRU 0.65 0.68 0.65 0.66
All Nets 0.97 0.95 1.01 0.99


COMING TOMORROW: Ratings from the Round of 32 Saturday and Sunday, as well as network averages for the tournament to date.

About the Author

Mitch Metcalf
MITCH METCALF has been tracking every US film release of over 500 screens (over 2300 movies and counting) since the storied weekend of May 20, 1994, when Maverick and Beverly Hills Cop 3 inspired countless aficionados to devote their lives to the art of cinema. Prior to that, he studied Politics and Economics at Princeton in order to prepare for his dream of working in television. He has been Head of West Coast Research at ABC, then moved to NBC in 2000 and became Head of Scheduling for 11 years.