This headline can’t be a surprise, can it?  With the record number of close finishes, upsets galore, and dramatic basketball from beginning to end, CBS and Turner set record ratings for the opening day of the NCAA Tournament.  The games collectively averaged a 6.6 overnight rating, which is up 10% versus 2014.  In even better news, the March Madness Live stream was up 12% from last year.

Incredibly, each broadcast window set a record rating that goes back to at least 1991.  Here’s the release in full:

CBS Sports and Turner Sports’ exclusive second round coverage of the 2015 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship across TBS, CBS, TNT and truTV on Thursday, March 19, delivered the all-time highest rating for the first Thursday of the NCAA Tournament (since the tournament expanded to four telecast windows for the entire day in 1991). Thursday’s games averaged a 6.6/14 overnight ratings/share, up 10% compared with a 6.0/14 in 2014, according to Nielsen metered market ratings.  

Additionally, NCAA March Madness Live delivered a record-setting first Thursday of tournament action with 22 million live video streams registering a 12% increase over last year. 

Thursday’s television coverage, which made NCAA Tournament history with five games decided by one point, showed ratings growth among the telecast windows. 

? The first daytime telecast window (12:00-4:30 p.m. ET) averaged a 4.6/15 to tie last year as the highest rating for the game window in 25 years. 

? The second daytime telecast window (2:45-7:30 p.m.) averaged a 6.7/16 to garner the highest rating in for the game window since 1991. The telecast window is up 24% compared with a 5.4/14 in 2014.

? The first primetime telecast window (6:45-10:30 p.m.) averaged a 7.8/13 to register the highest rating for the game window in 25 years. The window surpassed a 7.7/15 in 2014.

? The second primetime window (9:15 p.m.-1:15 a.m.) averaged a 7.1/13 to deliver the highest rating for the game window in 25 years and a 15% increase over the same telecast window last year (6.2/12).

It’s always interesting to follow NCAA Tournament ratings.  While the championship game and Final Four are always boosted by big name schools, it seemingly doesn’t matter who’s playing on the opening day of the tournament, on what network, or in what timeslot.  The viewers are there thanks solely to the spectacle of the event.  And that spectacle was never better than it was Thursday.

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