CBS is enjoying historically high ratings for its broadcast of the Final Four games in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.
According to Deadline, this weekend’s games pitting North Carolina against Oregon and South Carolina against Gonzaga were the second-most watched Final Four games in 19 years. The games averaged 16.8 million viewers, up 44% over last year’s Final Four games.
The ratings, which could indicate tonight’s game pitting North Carolina against Gonzaga for the championship is in line for a large audience, continues the good news for the March Madness TV partners after a strong opening weekend.
According to Media Life, citing Nielsen ratings, the tournament’s opening weekend averaged 9.325 million total viewers across CBS, tru TV, TBS and TNT. That’s good enough for a 10% increase over the 8.5 million total viewers it averaged one year ago and also good enough for the best opening weekend since 1993.
Overall, according to the report, the tournament this year is averaging 10.4 million viewers, an increase of 14% over last year. That’s on top of the 93.5 million live video streams through the Final Four that have been generated by the March Madness Live app.
Nielsen’s recent research showed that one-third of the U.S. television audience watched at least six minutes of the tournament in 2016. In 2017, ratings for the tournament are growing while ratings for other marquee TV events like the Super Bowl and the Oscars have declined or stayed flat.
Nielsen partly attributed the audience growth to the engagement generated by viewers filling out tournament brackets.
Last year, CBS, Turner and the NCAA reached a new deal to extend the channels’ carriage of March Madness. The extension covered an eight-year period for a total rights fee of $8.8 billion. Under the terms of the deal, TBS will get to air the Final Four games in 2018.