Exclusive: Bar, Hotel Viewing Lifts March Madness Numbers 20%


Having posted the strongest March Madness TV ratings since 2005, CBS and Turner Sports also experienced a major bounce among a fan base that can be somewhat difficult to pin down.

CBS' and Turner's joint coverage of the 2011 Men’s Division I Basketball Championship earned a significant lift from out-of-home viewing, as the overall delivery of viewers aged 18-49 improved 20 percent based on Arbitron Portable People Meter data: from a national TV audience base of 4.69 million viewers 18-49, the out-of-home count brought the average audience in that demographic group to around 5.65 million across the 67-game slate.

The partners also saw an 18 percent boost among adults 25-54, while the 18-34 demo swelled 24 percent when Arbitron's portable data was added.

All told, CBS, TNT, TBS and truTV saw a 15 percent boost from fans who watched the tourney in bars, restaurants, hotels and other common areas. While the rights holders do not guarantee ratings drawn in nontraditional venues, the Arbitron numbers go a long way toward reinforcing the intrinsic value of the 14-year, $10.8 billion March Madness pact.

“The out-of-home audience that we all know is an intrinsic part of live sports deliveries is baked into the premium,” said Jon Diament, Turner Sports evp, ad sales and marketing. “We don’t think buyers are ever going to want to pay extra for these deliveries, but then again, the sports marketplace is so strong that we really don’t need to make those kind of guarantees in the first place.”

Along with alumni who cheered on their college teams everywhere from Applebee's to their corner pub, many business travelers tuned in to the games in hotel rooms and airport lounges. Early research suggests that the nature of the out-of-home venue may have a direct impact on category receptivity. For example, fans who watched a game or two in a hotel are likely to be more open to ads for travel-related services such as rental cars and airlines.

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