It may well go in the books as the ugliest NCAA National Championship Game of all time, but Monday night’s UConn-Butler farce still put up some solid numbers for CBS.
Despite the fact that the Bulldogs appeared to be playing in their first organized basketball game––Butler shot a woeful 19 percent from the field, including three-for-31 from two-point range––the Final managed to earn a 13.3 overnight rating, down just 17 percent from last year’s Duke-Butler thrill ride (16.0).
While the numbers will undoubtedly change upon application of final national ratings, the Huskies’ 53-41 win currently ranks as the fifth highest rated National Championship Game of the last decade. In fact, that preliminary figure represents a 12 percent increase from North Carolina-Michigan State in 2009. Also a blowout (the Heels won by an 89-72 margin), the 2009 title game drew an 11.9 overnight.
Based on the early Nielsen ratings, UConn-Butler should have delivered some 20.1 million viewers to CBS.
The final drew a higher overnight than each of the five games of the 2010 World Series on Fox and topped six of the seven 2010 NBA Finals on ABC. The game did, however, fall short of January’s BCS National Championship Game, which scared up a 16.1 overnight on ESPN.
All told, the first joint-custody NCAA tourney averaged a combined 10.2 million total viewers across CBS, TNT, TBS and truTV, up 7 percent from last year’s coverage on CBS (9.5 million). This year’s March Madness showcase was the most watched since 2005.
More importantly, the demos were well up versus last year. Adults 18-49 improved 12 percent to 4.69 million while men 18-49 were up 14 percent (3.25 million). Younger fans were particularly receptive to the new format, as the four nets averaged 2.33 million viewers 18-34 (up 21 percent from 2010) and 1.6 million men 18-34.
“By every measure, the first year of Turner and CBS’ [partnership] was a success...And it formed a great foundation for the next 13 years,” said David Levy, president of sales, distribution and sports, Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. “The ratings increases this year also proved that the new television format is more fan friendly than ever. With four national television networks, viewers were able to enjoy more games, coverage and analysis.”
Levy’s assessment was shared by CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus, who said that while this was just the first of a 14-year affiliation, “the success we’ve achieved with the best overall tournament ratings since 2005 bodes very well for the future.”