Ratings Roundup: March Madness On Pace To Draw Most Viewers Since 1993; ESPN MLB Opening Night Even With Last Year

CBS Sports and Turner Sports’ of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament continues to draw in viewers at an impressive clip, delivering the most viewers (across TBS, CBS, TNT and truTV) in 21 years (since 1993). Through Sunday, March 30, the NCAA Tournament is averaging 9.8 million total viewers, based on Nielsen Fast Nationals. This year’s NCAA Tournament is averaging a 6.2/13 U.S. HH rating/share, tied with last year as the highest rating for the tournament since 2005.

In addition, the Elite Eight coverage on TBS on Saturday delivered the two most-viewed college basketball games in cable television history as the Wisconsin-Arizona overtime thriller averaged 9.9 million total viewers and the Dayton-Florida game pulled an average of 7.2 million to rank first and second respectively, all time. Wisconsin/Arizona averaged a 5.8 household score, based on Nielsen Fast Nationals, with Florida/Dayton averaging a 4.3. Overall, through Saturday, the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship is averaging 9.6 million total viewers, the highest viewership for the tournament in 21 years and up 2% over last year.

…Of course, March Madness has become about much more than just TV. It’s not one of the highest-profile sports events of the year for multiscreen consumption – that trend has continued this year, as NCAA March Madness Live has delivered 64 million live video streams across all platforms through the second week of the 2014 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship. This year’s 64 million live video streams is up 40% when compared tournament to date last year and has far exceeded last year’s total of 49 million video streams for the entire tournament. Additionally, NCAA March Madness Live has netted 13.5 million hours of live video consumed, an increase of 7% over last year and on pace to rank as an all-time record.

Across all digital platforms, NCAA March Madness Live has generated 64 million live video streams, up 40% compared with the first two weeks of the tournament in 2013. From the start of the First Four on March 18 to the completion of the Regional Finals on March 30, NCAA March Madness Live has registered 13.5 million hours of live video streaming, which represent a 7% increase from 2013.

Mobile (tablets and smartphones) platforms experienced significant growth with live streams up 71% over the first two weeks of the tournament in 2013. Live streaming hours also delivered considerable growth, up 38% over the comparable span last year.

The top five most-watched games across digital platforms over the first two weeks of the tournament, based on live video streams: Dayton vs. Ohio State – 4,587,986; Mercer vs. Duke – 4,177,421; Harvard vs. Cincinnati – 2,742,532; Kentucky vs. Wichita State – 1,954,273; Wisconsin vs. Arizona – 1,647,561…

…Opening Night of the 2014 Major League Baseball season drew even with last year, according to overnights. The Dodgers/Padres MLB Opening Night game earned a 1.5 overnight rating on ESPN, even with Rangers/Astros last year (1.5), but down 17% from Cardinals/Marlins on a Wednesday night in 2012 (1.8). This is the fourth straight year overnight ratings have either held steady or declined for the Opening Night game. (SportsMediaWatch)…

Fox Sports regionals saw huge numbers for their MLB opening day coverage. Out west, Mariners vs. Angels on FOX Sports West delivered a 2.91 HH rating in Los Angeles, making it the most-watched Opening Day in the Angels 23-year history on FOX Sports West. Giants vs. Diamondbacks on FOX Sports Arizona produced a 6.0 HH rating in Phoenix, the highest rating for a D-backs home opener since 2004.

In the midwest, Cardinals vs. Cincinnati on FOX Sports Midwest delivered the highest-rated Cardinals road opener ever on FOX Sports Midwest, generating an 11.1 HH rating, making it the most-watched program of the day in St. Louis. Royals vs. Tigers on FOX Sports Detroit was +34% in viewership over last year’s season opener. FOX Sports Detroit, simulcast with WJBK, delivered a 14.9 HH rating– the second highest-rated Opening Day ever on FOX Sports Detroit. Indians vs. A’s on SportsTime Ohio earned a 7.4 HH rating, which is 33% higher than the team’s 2013 season average on the network.

In Florida, Rockies vs. Marlins on FOX Sports Florida scored a 1.9 HH rating, which topped last year’s Opening Day by 78% and was the most-watched Marlins opener since 2011. Blue Jays vs. Rays on Sun Sports delivered a 5.7 HH rating on Sun Sports, +19% from last year’s opener…

…Buoyed by unprecedented live programming hours, record viewership for the Sochi Winter Games, strong NHL viewership, and the Premier League’s three most-watched months on U.S. sports cable, NBCSN averaged 215,000 Total Day viewers (6 a.m.-6 a.m.) in the first quarter of 2014 – marking the most-watched quarter in the network’s history. NBCSN’s first quarter (Dec. 30-March 30) Total Day viewership jumped 231% vs. last year’s first quarter (65,000) – ranking No. 1 among all cable networks in year-over-year increase and more than doubling the No. 2 cable network in growth (TeenNick, up 87%) for the quarter. In addition, NBCSN’s first quarter performance excluding coverage of the Sochi Games (103,000 Total Day viewers) increased by 58% over 2013 – still a larger year-over-year increase than any other sports cable network in the quarter.

Nonetheless, the Sochi Games played a major role in NBCSN’s success to kick off the year, as the network averaged 1.6 million viewers for the Sochi Games in the 6 a.m.-3 p.m. ET time period – a 134% increase over the network’s comparable daytime coverage of the 2012 London Games (692,000 viewers). The Sochi Games had a nine-hour time difference vs. the eastern time zone in the United States compared to five hours for London in 2012. The 10 best weekday daytime audiences in NBCSN’s history were provided by its 10 weekdays of Sochi coverage and the network’s five highest viewership totals for weekend daytimes also came during coverage of the Sochi Games.

NBCSN’s NHL and Premiere League coverage also posted big numbers. NBCSN posted its best full-season first quarter NHL viewership ever with an average of 375,000 viewers – up 18% from the first quarter in 2012.  NBCSN is on pace for its best-ever viewership for a full NHL season, averaging 358,000 viewers. NBCSN delivered the Premier League’s three most-watched months ever on U.S. sports cable, averaging a record 476,000 viewers in February, as well as 442,000 viewers in March, and 414,000 viewers in January…

…Fox drew a 3.8 overnight rating for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 from Martinsville Speedway on Sunday. The same race during the last two years has been run on Final Four weekend and did not feature competition from men’s college basketball games. The net last year earned a 4.o, while this year earned a 3.8 overnight rating on FOX, down 5%. (SportsBusinessDaily)

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