Ratings! They’re in, and it is being reported that this weekend had the highest ratings in seventeen years as the tournament moved to a platform where every game was televised in its entirety nationally on CBS, TBS, TNT, or TruTV.
I was all for this move to the four networks and having the choice of games. I also wonder, though, if this talk about ratings isn’t over-amplifying any actual increase in tournament popularity. I suspect that there were a few more people watching because they had a choice in their market, but I also think other factors led to ratings increase.
Traditionally, for the weekend games, CBS used a 1-2-3-2 or 1-2-4-1. Basically, four time slots of game with slight overlaps. This year, they only showed one game at a time before 5 pm eastern time and basically creating an extra time slot. Instead of 9 hours of basketball, there was 11.5 hours.
Last Thursday, there were similar ratings increases for the first day of the tournament. If you’ll look closer, you will see that most of the increases were during the afternoon time slots. The two afternoon slots saw increases of 43% and 46%, while the night sessions went up compared to last year, 8% and 13%.
Were almost 50% more people really staying home from work and avoiding green beer because a game could now be seen on TruTV? I doubt it. Again, there was more (in terms of total time) basketball on television, as there were really three sets of games in the afternoon. In the past, there were two, except for local markets that got a late afternoon game. There was a gap between day and night sessions moreso than this year.
I know I switched from game to game trying to avoid that NAPA Know How Commercial, and I had to avoid it for longer. While actual viewers probably increased some, I suspect it was more a case of those of us who watched just watched longer and for more time. I know that’s what my body is telling me anyway.