Ratings Roundup: NBA on ABC Viewership Up 13% From 2020-21

Ratings Roundup is a rundown of recent rating news and is derived from press releases and reports around the industry. In this week’s edition, NBA on ABC’s ratings are up 13%, NFL Live has its best March audience since 2015, and more.

NBA on ABC Viewership Up vs. Last Two Seasons

The 2021-22 regular season viewership for the NBA on ABC was up from the last two years, according to Nielsen. The 19-game package averaged 3,026,000 viewers, up 13 percent vs. last season and up 3 percent from the 2019-2020 campaign.

NBA Countdown delivered by Papa John’s, the NBA on ABC pregame show, averaged 1,451,000 viewers, which was up 8 percent vs. last year and up 3 percent from two seasons ago.

The NBA on ABC package includes games on Christmas Day as well as the NBA Saturday Primetime on ABC presented by Meta Quest series and the ABC Sunday Showcase presented by Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup series. The NBA on ABC will continue throughout the NBA Playoffs, culminating with the NBA Finals.

NFL Live Has Best March Audience Since 2015

NFL Live delivered its most-watched month of March in seven years (2015), with its monthly audience spiking during NFL Free Agency, continuing a streak of multiyear viewership highs for the show dating back to September 2021 and the start of the this past NFL regular season.

During the NFL’s negotiating period and the first day of free agency (March 14-16), NFL Live averaged 462,000 viewers a show (4-5 p.m. ET), up 41% from the equivalent three days in 2021 (March 15-17). Spanning the entire month of March, NFL Live averaged 393,000 viewers per show on ESPN, its best March average since 2015, including a 42% increase over 2021, 30% from 2020 and 36% from 2019. Additional highlights:

  • In the key Persons 18-49 demo, NFL Live was up 47% year-over-year for the month
  • Monday, March 14, averaging 511,000 viewers, represented the show’s most-watched episode for the month
  • Leading into NFL Live during the NFL’s negotiating period and first day of free agency (March 14-16) were three SportsCenter Special: NFL Free Agency Countdown shows (3-4 p.m.), which averaged 362,000 viewers each episode

Kansas vs. UNC Sets NCAA Men’s Championship Record

CBS Sports and Turner Sports’ exclusive coverage of April 4’s NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball National Championship – Kansas defeating North Carolina, 72-69, with the biggest halftime comeback in championship game history – airing across TBS, TNT and truTV produced the most-viewed NCAA Men’s Championship Game telecast ever on cable television. The Kansas/UNC game delivered an average of 18.1 million viewers, based on total audience delivery, an increase of 4% over last year’s national championship (Baylor vs. Gonzaga).

The Kansas/UNC telecast was the third most-watched college basketball game in cable TV history, with April 2’s UNC/Duke Final Four National Semifinal matchup (which averaged 18.5 million viewers) ranking second all-time.

The 2022 NCAA Men’s Tournament airing across TBS, CBS, TNT and truTV averaged 10.7 million total viewers and a 17.0 share (the percentage of households or viewers who are watching television at that time) for its 67 live game telecasts, both up 13% over last year. The 17.0 share is the best for the entire NCAA Men’s Tournament since 1994.

NCAA March Madness Live set multiple all-time records for last night’s Kansas/UNC championship, including the largest audience and most minutes consumed for a single game in MML history. Kansas/UNC netted a peak of 1.6 million concurrent streams, breaking the previous record set just two days prior during the Duke/UNC showdown. This year’s NCAA Men’s Tournament generated the most live uniques for any full tournament in MML history, a 12% increase over the previous record year set in 2019.

Official NCAA Men’s March Madness social handles generated record engagement for this year’s NCAA Men’s Tournament, with a 58% increase vs. the previous all-time high, set in 2021. For last night’s Championship Game, social engagements saw a 33% lift compared to the prior record.


NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship Nets 4.85M Viewers

 

South Carolina’s wire-to-wire victory in the 2022 NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship scored 4.85 million viewers April 3 to become the most-watched women’s title game since 2004, and the fourth largest audience to watch a women’s championship game since ESPN began exclusively airing the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Tournament in 1996.

The 4.85 million viewers tuning in across ESPN networks Sunday was the most-watched cable program of the day, an audience increase of 18 percent year-over-year and 30 percent from 2019. The matchup peaked from 10-10:15 p.m. ET with 5.91 million viewers across ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU, as South Carolina captured its second national title during ESPN’s MegaCast presentation.

“ESPN’s commitment to women’s basketball has never been stronger and this year’s viewership numbers are a clear indication of the growing popularity of the sport and the NCAA Women’s Tournament,” says Nick Dawson, ESPN vice president of programming and acquisitions. “Since ESPN began exclusively televising this event more than two decades ago, we have consistently strived to raise the bar in our presentation, and we are particularly gratified by our expanded coverage and the introduction of new elements like the MegaCast this year. We look forward to working with the NCAA to further enhance our presentation in the years ahead.”

Most-Watched Final Four in a Decade

The 2022 NCAA Women’s Final Four is the most-watched Final Four weekend since 2012, averaging 3.46 million viewers. The audience for the trio of games throughout the weekend was up 20 percent from 2021.

The National Semifinals scored 2.7 million average viewers, up 21 percent year-over-year and the most-viewed semifinals in a decade. Connecticut and Stanford’s showdown registered 3.23 million viewers, up 19 percent from 2021 and 49 percent from 2019 — the most-watched women’s semifinal game since 2012 (Stanford vs. Baylor). The matchup was the second-most-watched cable program of the day and most-watched overall among the coveted P18-49 demo. Louisville vs. South Carolina recorded 2.16 million viewers, up 27 percent and 43 percent from 2019, registering the most-watched audience of an early semifinal game since 2016 (Connecticut vs. Oregon State).

2022 NCAA Tournament Viewership Up Double Digits

The full NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Tournament averaged 634,000 viewers per game, up 16 percent from last year’s coverage. The total hours of consumption were up 6 percent year-over-year, with viewers devouring 74.6 million hours of content across ESPN platforms, roughly 4.1 million more hours compared to 2021.

The 2022 NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Tournament experienced several additional viewership milestones throughout, including:

  • The most-consumed early rounds on record
  • The most-watched early round window in more than 10 years
  • The most-watched Sweet 16 game on cable since 2017
  • The most-watched Elite Eight round in more than 10 years
  • The most-watched Elite Eight game in more than 10 years

FOX NASCAR Drives Viewership Up at Richmond

Nearly 4 million viewers watched Denny Hamlin win the NASCAR Cup Series race April 3 at Richmond Raceway on FOX.

FOX NASCAR viewership for Sunday’s @NASCAR race at Richmond Raceway was up 27% over the equivalent 2021 race, peaking at 4,492,000 viewers from 6:30 to 6:45 p.m. Eastern.

FOX NASCAR viewership for NASCAR Cup Series is up 16%, average 4,849,000 viewers, over 2021 average of 4,190,000 viewers through first seven races.

    • Top 5 Available markets:

 

    • Greensboro 4.8/13

 

    • Charlotte 3.8/12

 

    • Indianapolis 3.7/11

 

    • Hartford 3.6/11

 

    Norfolk 3.5/9

Duke vs. UNC Is Most-Watched NCAA Division I Men’s Semifinal Since 2017

Turner Sports and CBS Sports’ exclusive coverage of April 2’s NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball National Semifinal classic – North Carolina defeating Duke, 81-77 – airing across TBS, TNT and truTV produced the most-viewed NCAA Men’s Final Four telecast on any network since 2017 (North Carolina vs. Oregon on April 1, 2017). The UNC/Duke game delivered an average of 16.3 million viewers, based on total audience delivery, which projects to be the second most-viewed college basketball telecast in the history of cable television once out-of-home viewership is included. Based on tournament to date trends, out-of-home viewership is projected to be a lift of more than 10% to the final viewership totals.

In the earlier window, Kansas vs. Villanova delivered an average of 10.3 million viewers, based on total audience delivery (without out-of-home viewership being included), up 22% over Baylor’s blowout victory over Houston in 2021. Overall, last night’s two National Semifinal games averaged 13.5 million viewers based on total audience delivery (minus out-of-home audience), up 9% over last year.

To date, the 2022 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship is generating audience increases across all platforms vs. 2021.

NCAA March Madness Live produced multiple all-time marks for last night’s UNC/Duke game, with the largest audience and most minutes consumed for any single game in MML history. The NCAA Men’s Final Four produced records across streaming platforms, including a record-shattering 1.4 million concurrent streams during UNC/Duke. This year’s NCAA Men’s Tournament – through the Final Four round – has already generated the most live uniques for any full tournament in MML history.

Official NCAA Men’s March Madness social handles generated record engagement for Final Four content, a +36% increase vs. the previous Final Four all-time high. For the tournament to date, social engagements have seen a +63% lift compared to last year’s previous record.

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