The ratings are in for Saturday night's Final Four and the news remains good for CBS (and to a lesser extent Turner, although they are yet to televise the final stage of the NCAA Tournament).
Although the games were only up 3% from last year, slowing down the growth we've seen through this year's tournament, Saturday's games between Wichita State and Louisville and Michigan and Syracuse combined for the highest rated and most watched Final Four since 2005.
"Turner Sports and CBS Sports’ coverage of the 2013 NCAA® Division I Men’s Basketball Final Four® on CBS on Saturday, April 6, earned an average fast national household rating/share of 9.4/18, up 4% from last year’s 9.0/17, and is the highest-rated Final Four in eight years (10.5/19 in 2005), based on Nielsen Fast Nationals.
The 2013 Final Four averaged 15,702,000 total viewers, up 3% from last year’s 15,256,000 total viewers, which is the highest viewership average for the two Final Four games since 2005 (16,647,000 for Illinois/Louisville and North Carolina/Michigan State).
The first game, Louisville beating Wichita State, earned an average household rating/share of 8.7/18 and 14,468,000 total viewers, both up 4% from last year’s 8.4/17 and 13,908,000 total viewers.
The second game featuring Michigan’s victory over Syracuse delivered a 10.2/18, up 6% from last year’s 9.6/17. The corresponding 17,104,000 total viewers are up 3% compared with last year’s 16,603,000 total viewers."
CBS has to be encouraged that ratings were up, especially with the presence of a national unknown like Wichita State. They were blessed with two compelling games that were both close until the final minute, especially with the Shockers leading Louisville for much of the second half to the surprise of everyone outside the Wichita metropolitan area.
As far as tonight's game goes, I'd expect a strong rating as long as it stays close. Both Michigan and Louisville were ranked #1 in the country throughout the college basketball season. Even though Michigan is a 4 seed, they are a known entity with the national player of the year, Trey Burke. Add in people still interested in the Kevin Ware story and all the ingredients are there for a monster night for CBS.