Ratings Roundup: March Madness Week Hits Highest Average in 17 Years

The landmark 14-year, $10.8 billion rights deal for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament looks to be paying off for CBS Sports and Turner in its initial run. Combined coverage on CBS, TBS, TNT, and truTV delivered the highest average total viewers through the first tournament week in 17 years. The overall tournament average to date, including the First Four, is a 5.5 rating/13 share, up 15% from the 4.8/11 logged for CBS Sports’ 2010 coverage, according to Nielsen Fast Nationals. The four networks combined to average 8.4 million viewers, up 14% over CBS Sports’ 7.4 million total viewers in 2010. Overall, the 2011 tournament has delivered 81.3 million viewers, up 17% from 69.6 million viewers for CBS Sports’ 2010 coverage…

…Third-round coverage on Sunday March 20 combined to deliver an average fast national household rating/share of 6.6/14, up 16% from 5.7/13 for CBS Sports’ 2010 coverage. The 6.6/14 ties with 2005’s 6.6/15 as the highest rating for the first Sunday of the tournament since 2000’s 7.2/17. Sunday’s coverage averaged 10.5 million viewers, an 18% increase from last year’s 8.9 million…

…The NASCAR Sprint Cup Jeff Byrd 500 (previously known as the Food City 500) from Bristol, TN, earned Fox a 3.9 overnight rating on  Sunday afternoon, down 19% from last year’s fourth race of the season (Atlanta, 4.8). The 3.9 rating also marks a 7% decline from the 4.2 for last year’s spring Bristol race, which aired on the comparable date. Overall, this marks the lowest overnight for the spring Bristol race since it moved to Fox in 2001. The race ends a solid ratings run for the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit, which started the season with increased ratings at the Daytona 500 (8.2, up 17%), Subway Fresh Fit 500 (5.3, up 6%), and Kobalt Tools 400 (5.3, up 29%).

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