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CBS and Turner Celebrate Launch of March Madness: 'Most-Watched First Thursday in 22 Years' TVWeek

Thursday night’s coverage of the first full night of the March Madness NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament by CBS Sports and Turner Sports delivered the tournament’s best numbers in 22 years, the CBS Communications Group reports.

It was the most-viewed first Thursday of tournament coverage since 1991, when the tournament expanded to four telecast windows, according to the press release. The programming delivered a combined 5.5 U.S. household rating and 8.1 million viewers, based on Nielsen Fast Nationals.

Tournament action is being carried on TBS, CBS, TNT and truTV.

“Thursday’s coverage earned a Fast National HH rating/share of a 5.5/12, +4% vs. last year’s 5.3/13, the highest average rating for the first Thursday of the NCAA Tournament in 19 years (5.6/14; 1994),” the release reports. “The 2013 NCAA Tournament-to-date, including the First Four, is averaging a 5.0/11, +6% from last year’s 4.7/11, and is tied with the highest-to-date rating since 2006 (5.0/11).”

The release adds: “Overall, the 2013 NCAA Tournament-to-date is the most-watched in 20 years (1993). The First Four and Thursday’s coverage averaged 7.4 million viewers, +7% vs. 6.9 million viewers last year.”

The release breaks down numbers as follows for Thursday's telecast windows:

-- The first telecast window of the day combined to earn a 4.0/13, +14% vs. last year’s 3.5/13.

-- The second telecast window of the day combined to earn a 5.1/13, +6% vs. last year’s 4.8/13.

-- The third telecast window of the day combined to earn a 7.1/12, +11% vs. last year’s 6.4/12.

-- The fourth telecast window of the day combined to earn a 5.9/11, vs. last year’s 6.4/12.