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NCAA March Madness Finals Hit Ratings Low

Apr 7, 2009  •  Post A Comment

Monday night’s final matchup of this year’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament came in as the lowest-rated championship game ever.
Last night’s game, in which North Carolina beat Michigan State, drew a 10.8 household rating/18 share among households and 17.6 million viewers, according to final figures from Nielsen Media Research. This year’s final matchup was the lowest rated ever, down 11% from last year’s final game between Kansas and Memphis. This also marked the first time the household rating for an NCAA championship game fell below 11 points.
Total viewership for all those who tuned in for part or all of the game was 41.2 million, down just 1% from last year’s total viewership for a competitive game that went into overtime.
Overall, March Madness basketball coverage on CBS averaged a 5.7/12 (8.9 million) this year, up 2% from last year’s all-time low average (excluding 2003, when the war in Iraq began). Among key male demographics, tournament averages were down 14% in men 18-34, 4% in men 18-49 and 2% in men 25-54.

77 Comments

  1. It’s really disappointing to hear that America’s interest in watching college basketball has dropped. Unlike professional basketball and football, where highly overpaid athletes and all their criminal drama satisfy our need for scandal, these guys/girls are playing for their team, their school and with their hearts. And oh, yeah, they are academically talented as well, which America really seems to have to no taste for at all. What a shame….even though Carolina raked over Michigan, it was still one of the best sporting events I’ve ever watched; especially when they received the trophy and humbly stood by their coach in tears. No “in-your-face” antics or wild dancing, just the deep appreciation for the opportunity to be part of such an elite group.

  2. Oh well. The World Figure Skating Championships clocked in at a 2.8 for the ladies free skate, so NCAA basketball fans shouldn’t feel too discouraged after taking a look at the numbers for other sports.

  3. If they want a bigger audience why don’t they start the game at 8:00 PM Eastern Time instead of approximately 9:30 PM? Although we are in a Recession, for most of us Monday Night is a Work or School Night, therefore many would be viewers are forced to call it quits before the game ends. 2/3 of the nation lives EAST of the Mississippi River, and yet we get shafted during most Championship Games because the Networks insist on having the games end late at night!

  4. The biggest problem with the Monday game was that it was a blowout. The ratings continually drop as the night goes on. Carolina was up over 20 points at half. I know a lot of people who shut off the game.

  5. All excellent comments. The biggest problem was the late tip-off and end. I turned off the game at 11:30 with about a few minutes left – the outcome was no surprise.
    It wasn’t that long ago (2001) that the championship game was over by 10:00 PM (EST)!!! But the NCAA and CBS, like other TV networks, are stuffing as many commercials and ad dollars into the programming as they can. Note how several of the TV timeouts are for commercials only – they’re not charged to either team.
    So, the late tip-off hurts. So does the lack of interest from fans whose teams have already been eliminated from the tournament. (Realistically – how many Duke, Wake Forest, Ohio State, UConn, Pitt, and Illinois fans would have watched the game, or cared who won?))
    It was apparent early on in the tournament that North Carolina was simply overpowering everyone else, so that hurt TV ratings as well.
    The contract between the NCAA and CBS comes up for renewal next year. Either CBS is going to fork over more money, or many of the games will move to ESPN. Conceivably, the entire tournament could go that way – look what happened to TV rights for the Bowl Championship Series.
    Don’t be surprised to see more major college sports wind up on pay TV. I wonder how the ratings will look then?

  6. The NCAA has become as big a business as the “professional” leagues with the added responsibility to appear tied to academic prowess along with the obvious necessity of athletic accomplishments.
    As noted above, it was refreshing to experience North Carolina’s champions truly moved and appreciative of the position they had achieved.
    Like any other “final” event at the end of a series, too much emphasis is put on it. Expectations far exceed the reality of the “Super Bowl Moment”.
    It’s all about the dollar and how far it can be stretched. Don’t get me wrong here, the monies do wind up assisting in the progression of american academia and the ancillaries that employee thousands throughout the season.
    Think about it, do you believe all the Romans walked away from the Colliseum happy with the outcome of the lions and the gladiators?
    Pagentry is part of the human experience.
    Statistics are compiled all too fast today, riddled with inacurracies and subject to “spins” of interpretation.
    Perhaps an earlier “Tip-Off time” would be better… who knows?
    I do know CBS Sports provided great game coverage and analysis before and after each game.
    Forty-one million viewers to one event is no small potatoe in today’s multi-media world.
    Looking ahead…it will be what it will be. It remains an exciting game to watch when played well and presented equally on television.
    Peter Bright

  7. Dtvpete, media timeouts are a part of every college basketball game, tournament or not, for the various TV, radio, or Internet media. They come at the first whistle after 16:00, 12:00, 8:00, and 4:00. They’ve been around for decades, and you can’t blame CBS for those.
    They could start the game earlier, true.

  8. Don’t forget, the baseball season also started on Monday. Here in Chicago, the Cubs beat everybody in the market Monday night, including the NCAA game.

  9. JoAnn Carpenter, don’t fool yourself. I have seen lots of college athletes getting in trouble with the law this season (and not just this season). The only difference is that college players are less popular than their professional counterparts so their run ins with the law are less publicized.

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