teams make for great stories and busted brackets. They don’t
necessarily make for great television ratings, though.
a dream Final Four field last year, CBS and Turner Sports have
something very different this weekend with Florida Atlantic,
Miami, San Diego State and Connecticut making it to Houston.
The lack of
recognizable names could affect the ratings.
the first two weeks have seemingly already taken a toll. The
tournament is averaging 9.11 million viewers through the regional
finals, which is down 6% from last year. This after the first round
on March 16-17 averaged 9.2 million, a record for the most-watched
round of 64.
Final Four of Duke, North Carolina, Kansas and Villanova resonated
even with casual fans because it was loaded with national brands.
It also included Mike Krzyzewski’s final tournament as Duke’s
group doesn’t have the same cachet.
is telling us that they would rather see the bluebloods. The
ratings support that,” said former CBS Sports president Neal
Pilson, who now runs his own sports television consulting company.
“I think it’s because they’re not familiar with teams like San
Diego State, Miami or FAU. There was relatively little press
attention paid to those teams during the year. Connecticut has a
history, but they’re the only one of the four that really has had
basketball also isn’t different from other sports when it comes to
marquee teams translating to bigger audiences.
Two of last
year’s Final Four games rank among the three most-watched college
basketball games in cable TV history. The semifinal matchup between
North Carolina and Duke averaged 18.5 million on TBS and ranks
second, while Kansas’ comeback victory over North Carolina averaged
Sports Media Watch, which tracked Final Four ratings to 1975, the
Baylor-Houston game from two years ago ranks as the least-watched
semifinal at 8.36 million (individual semis started being tracked
The low for a
title game on CBS is 2004, when 17.09 million watched UConn defeat
Georgia Tech. The overall low was in 2018 on TBS, when 15.99
million viewed Villanova’s win over Michigan. CBS and TBS began
alternating Final Fours in 2016.
that might factor into ratings this year is that Miami and Florida
Atlantic are from the same television markets (Miami/West Palm
signs that suggest the viewer drop won’t be as bad. Last Sunday’s
regional final between Miami and Texas on CBS averaged 11.3
million, which was the most-watched basketball game since last
year’s deciding game of the NBA Finals.
2011 semifinal between Butler and Virginia Commonwealth — the last
time two mid-majors met in a Final Four — was down only 2% from the
2010 early semi, when Butler beat Michigan State.
“UConn is a
very well-known program but with the other three, that’s where the
interesting storylines are,” said Tag Garson, senior vice president
of properties for Wasserman Media Group. “There are pundits who
said they were seeded on a line that wasn’t reflective enough of
the type season they had. There are some tremendous players that
will be playing this weekend regardless of which team you are