March Madness Ratings Roundup: Tourney Hits 22-Year Viewership High, Championship Scores Biggest Audience Since 1997

The 2015 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball National Championship across TBS, CBS, TNT and truTV is the most-watched NCAA Tournament in 22 years, according to Nielsen Fast Nationals. The 2015 NCAA Tournament averaged 11.3 million total viewers, up 8% from last year (10.5 million viewers), and is the highest average viewership for the NCAA Tournament in 22 years (12.7 million; 1993). This year’s NCAA Tournament averaged a 7.0/15 HH rating/share, up 8% from last year (6.5/13).

The National Championship game, which saw Duke defeat Wisconsin, averaged 28.3 million total viewers, up 33% from last year (21.3 million) and is the most-viewed NCAA title game in 18 years (28.4 million; Arizona/Kentucky in 1997). The Duke/Wisconsin game earned an average fast national household rating/share of 16.0/26, up 28% from last year’s 12.5/20(Connecticut/Kentucky). The championship game peaked with an 18.7/32 HH rating/share and 33.4 million average viewers from 11-11:15 p.m. ET.

Tournament Dominates Across All Platforms
NCAA March Madness Live, managed by Turner Sports, set all-time records with 80.7 million live video streams and 17.8 million hours of live video consumption during this year’s NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship.  This year’s record-setting live video streams are up 17% over last year, with hours of live video consumption up 19% vs. 2014. Additionally, TV Everywhere usage soared during this year’s tournament, recording double-digit year-over-year increases across Turner’s websites and apps throughout the entire tournament.

NCAA March Madness Live set all-time records during this weekend’s NCAA Final Four including six million live video streams (up 59% over 2014) and 1.5 million hours of live video consumption (up 53%) for the National Semifinal doubleheader featuring Kentucky vs. Wisconsin and Duke vs. Michigan State. Last night’s National Championship registered a record-setting 3.4 million live video streams and one million hours of live video consumption, up 66% and 69%, respectively, over last year. NCAA March Madness mobile consumption also continued to surge with live video streams and hours of live video consumption both up 20% over last year.

This year’s NCAA Tournament also garnered significant audience increases for fans who logged in to watch live streaming via Turner’s TV Everywhere platforms including a 42% increase in live video streams and a 34% gain in hours of live video consumption. Usage on logged-in mobile devices continued to soar, garnering a 58% increase in live streams and a 51% increase in time spent viewing versus the 2014 tournament.

This year’s top five most-watched games across digital platforms, based on live video streams: Northeastern vs. Notre Dame – 3.9 million; Wisconsin vs. Kentucky – 3.5 million; UAB vs. Iowa State – 3.4 (3.37) million; Wisconsin vs. Duke – 3.4 (3.36) million; Notre Dame vs. Kentucky – 3.3 million.

Kentucky-Wisconsin Makes for Final Four to Remember
Prior to the Championship game, the Kentucky-Wisconsin NCAA Final Four matchup on Saturday (presented aon TBS, TNT, and TruTV) averaged 22.6 million total viewers (up 39% vs. 2014) to become the most-viewed National Semifinal game telecast in 19 years and the most-viewed college basketball game in cable television history. The telecast delivered a 12.4/23 U.S. HH rating/share, up 35% over 2014. The game peaked at average of 28.2 million total viewers and a 15.7 U.S. HH rating from 11-11:15 p.m. ET.

Duke/Michigan State averaged 15.3 million total viewers for a 31% increase over last year and the highest viewership for the game window in 10 years.  The telecast’s 8.7/19 U.S. HH rating/share is an increase of 26% over 2014.

The NCAA Final Four doubleheader generated an average of 18.9 million total viewers, up 35% over last year and the most-viewed National Semifinal coverage in 19 years. The corresponding 10.5/21 U.S. HH rating/share is up 31% vs. 2014.

Big Number North of the Border
In Canada, Monday’s Championship Game and Saturday’s Final Four ranked as the two most-watched NCAA basketball games on record. Overall, audiences for the tournament were up 24% compared to last year. In total, 6.9 million unique Canadian viewers watched some part of the tournament on TSN. The 2015 tournament marked the first time TSN leveraged its multiple national feeds to showcase even more of the tournament, delivering a record amount of live coverage – tripling the live coverage it delivered last year – that included every game in its entirety across TSN and TSN GO.

According to overnight data from Numeris (BBM Canada)*, audiences for Monday’s Final were up 62% compared to last year, as an average audience of 325,000 viewers on TSN watched Duke win its fifth national title in a 68-63 comeback win over Wisconsin A record average audience of 267,000 viewers watched last Saturday’s Final Four on TSN


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