Thursday was not exactly the most exciting first day of the NCAA Tournament we’ve ever seen. The day featured only two upsets (and neither was really that shocking) and only a few games that truly came down to the final seconds.
Still, despite a lack of games that made you text your friend to turn on the TV immediately, the NCAA is reporting strong ratings on CBS and Turner Sports.
According to a press release, CBS, TNT, TBS and TruTV averaged a 5.9 household rating, up 5 percent from last year’s 5.5. In fact, that 5.9 is the third highest average rating for an opening Thursday since 1991, the first year every NCAA Tournament game was shown on TV.
First Thursday TV coverage across 4 networks averages 5.9/14 HH Rating, up +5% over 2016
— March Madness TV (@MarchMadnessTV) March 17, 2017
The NCAA also says March Madness Live got 29 million live video starts Thursday, up 19 percent from a year ago. Here we have to give credit where it’s due: March Madness Live is about as good as sports streaming services go, with smooth video quality and few glitches.
All that viewership is somewhat surprising for a few reasons. 1) The aforementioned lack of upsets and close games. 2) The lack of marquee teams playing (Duke, UNC, Kansas, UCLA and Kentucky all play Friday). 3) The historically poor ratings for CBS’ selection show.
Overall, it seems that a slightly underwhelming day on the court still yielded good results for rights-holders. We’ll see if the relatively unexciting first day has any effect on Friday’s ratings.