NCAA Tournament: Thursday’s Action Hits 21-Year High in Viewership

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For the second straight year, the first Thursday of the NCAA Tournament hit a two-decade high in viewership.

Coverage of the ‘second round’ of the 2012 NCAA Tournament averaged a 5.3 U.S. rating and 7.7 million viewers across CBS and Turner Sports Thursday, according to Nielsen fast-nationals — up 6% in ratings and 4% in viewership from last year (5.0, 7.4M), and the most-viewed opening Thursday of the NCAA Tournament since the current scheduling format began in 1991.

The final telecast of the day led the way in viewership. Coverage featuring Connecticut/Iowa State on TBS, New Mexico State/Indiana on CBS, Loyola/Ohio State on TNT and Colorado/UNLV on TruTV drew a combined 6.4 U.S. rating and 9.9 million viewers — up 8% in ratings and viewership from last year (5.9, 9.101M), and up 14% and 11%, respectively, from 2010 coverage on CBS alone (5.6, 8.881M).

Earlier in the night, action featuring Kentucky/Western Kentucky on TBS, VCU/Wichita State on CBS, Gonzaga/West Virginia on TNT and Baylor/South Dakota State on TruTV drew a 6.4 and 9.664 million viewers — up 10% in ratings and 8% in viewership from last year (5.8, 8.928M), and up 12% and 9%, respectively, from 2010 (5.7, 8.897M).

Coverage in the late-afternoon window — including Marquette/BYU on CBS, Syracuse/UNC-Asheville on TruTV, New Mexico/Long Beach St. on TBS and Vanderbilt/Harvard on TNT — drew a 4.8 and 6.723 million viewers, up 9% in ratings and 5% in viewership from last year (4.4, 6.421M), and up 60% and 58%, respectively, from 2010 (3.0, 4.257M).

CBS/Turner Sports did not disclose ratings and viewership information for the first telecast of the day, an indication that the numbers were down from last year. Sports Business Daily reported earlier Friday that the early afternoon window drew a 3.9 overnight, down 11% from last year (4.4).

The first telecast included featuring Murray State/Colorado on CBS, Kansas State/Southern Mississippi on TruTV, Louisville/Davidson on TBS and Wisconsin/Montana and TNT.

(Thursday’s ratings/viewership obtained from Turner Sports, with additional information from Sports Business Daily)

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