The 2017 NCAA Tournament has been a fun ride so far, and no one is enjoying it more than CBS, which has seen its rating surge. Sunday’s ratings for the games were reportedly up 34 percent from last year according to a release from CBS Sports.
Sunday’s contests featured a slew of close games involving big name programs, that alone would certainly lead to an increase in viewership. But 34 percent is a huge number, and the 11.9 million average viewers made it the most-watched first Sunday in 24 years. That’s pretty remarkable.
Overall the tournament is also the most-watched in 24 years with an average of 9.325 million viewers, up 10 percent from last year’s number (8.513 million). Meanwhile, March Madness Live has already generated a record 69.1 million streams through the tournament’s first weekend, up 24 percent from last year.
Sunday’s numbers were the real story though. Here are some stats that back that up:
-The first window of games (Noon to 2:29 p.m. ET) brought in 7.3 million viewers, which was a 38 percent increase from 2016.
-The second window (2:47 to 5:05 p.m.) saw 10.3 million viewers tune in, a 23 percent increase over last year.
-The third window (5:05 p.m. to 9:25 p.m.) brought in 18.6 million viewers, another 38 percent increase on 2016. That also made it the most-watched tournament window since the current television format was implemented in 1991.
-The final, late-night window (7:53 p.m. to 11:51 p.m.) saw 11.3 million viewers tune in, a 36 percent increase over 2016.
While other sports are desperately trying to drive ratings, the NCAA Tournament is having no problem getting eyes on the product.
CBS and its partners at Turner Sports were helped by the lack of upsets, which put several blue blood teams in tough second-round matchups over the weekend. North Carolina, Kansas and Kentucky were all involved in tight, tough games before pulling away late. Meanwhile, Duke lost in a close battle with South Carolina, Michigan and Louisville played a classic that went down to the wire and Wisconsin pulled off a thrilling upset over defending champion Villanova. All of those games were compelling and clearly had viewers hooked.
While the weekend didn’t feature the tournament’s usual big upsets and buzzer beaters, it did have a lot of great basketball. Everyone loves a Cinderella story, but watching high-level teams in competitive games is clearly what matters most to viewers.