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Powerhouse Matchup Revives NCAA Ratings

February 26, 2008 3:32 PM

Despite a wide-open race, college basketball ratings have stumbled slightly this season for most networks carrying the sport. However, ESPN’s coverage of the Feb. 23 matchup of No. 1 Tennessee at No. 2 Memphis bucked that trend, setting a record as the network’s most-viewed men’s college basketball game.

The contest between the country’s two best teams, according to polls, averaged a 3.8 rating for the cable channel, as well as 3.6 million households and 5.3 million viewers. The game, won by Tennessee 66-62, was ESPN’s highest rated men’s college basketball game since Dec. 22, 1998, when Kentucky and Duke pulled a 3.9.

The game also marks the most-viewed regular-season men’s college basketball on any television outlet—broadcast or cable—since March 6, 2005, according to ESPN, when CBS’ coverage of Duke at North Carolina averaged 3.977 million households.

ESPN said its men’s regular-season college basketball coverage is averaging 946,000 households and a 1.0 rating this season, marking 11% increases in households (vs. 850,000) and ratings (vs. 0.9) from last year through the same point.

Season-to-date ratings for broadcast outlets, however, show the sport is down year-to-year, as much as 13% in households and 11% in the men 18-34 demo.

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