Kentucky-Wisconsin Final Four Tilt Sets Cable Ratings Record

Turner telecast averages 16.3 million viewers, 9.2 HH rating

The second of TBS’ historic Final Four telecasts, a white-knuckle battle between No. 8 seed Kentucky and the No. 2 Wisconsin Badgers, put up record numbers, making it the all-time most-watched nonfootball sporting event on cable.

According to Nielsen live-plus-same-day data, the Kentucky-Wisco nail-biter drew 16.3 million total viewers and a whopping 9.2 household rating, easily outgunning the previous cable record holder. (ESPN’s telecast of the Japan-USA Women’s World Cup Final in 2011 had set the previous high-water mark with an average draw of 13.5 million viewers.)

The late game, which Kentucky clinched on yet another late three-pointer from Aaron Harrison, was down only slightly from last year’s analogous matchup on CBS. The Michigan-Syracuse broadcast drew 17.1 million viewers and a 10.2 rating, making it the most-watched, highest-rated Final Four game since 2005.

Kentucky’s 74-73 victory scared up the fifth biggest Final Four delivery and rating in the last 10 years. And while TBS’ late game was down 10 percent versus last season’s broadcast, the Turner net handily met its ratings guarantees. 

Saturday’s doubleheader marked the first time the March Madness national semifinals were carried on a cable network.

Earlier in the day, UConn-Florida delivered 11.7 million viewers and a 6.9 HH rating, down 21 percent from CBS’ year-ago coverage of Louisville-Wichita State (14.5 million/8.7).

All told, the 2014 Final Four averaged 14 million viewers and an 8.1 HH rating, down 14 percent from CBS’ deliveries last year (15.7 million/9.4). In terms of reach, CBS is available in 16 million more homes than are the Turner networks.

The Final Four ratings include the Fancast simulcasts on truTV and TNT. While the individual deliveries were not available as of Monday morning, they should be in circulation by noon Tuesday.

Kentucky and UConn meet in the NCAA tourney final tonight. Tipoff is at 9:10 p.m. EDT, on CBS.