The first weekend of the NCAA Tournament gave viewers excitement for all four days. Whether it was a half-court buzzer beater, a blown 12-point lead in 30 seconds, or a stunning shot at the horn leaving Bill Murray extremely sad, the tournament was a winner throughout.

While there were some blowouts all four days, the momentum for the games led to a viewership win for CBS in Saturday primetime over the Golden State-San Antonio NBA game on ABC.

According to our Doug Pucci, the preliminary numbers for ABC had the NBA game averaging 4.269 million viewers. The Kansas-UConn game on CBS averaged a very good 5.952 million.

Kansas-UConn on CBS went from 8-10 p.m. ET while the Golden State-San Antonio game on ABC lasted between 8:30-11 p.m. ET.

You can see the half-hour breakdown where the games went to head-to-head how CBS beat ABC.

8:00 p.m.

ABC – NBA Countdown Viewers: 2.67 million
CBS – NCAA Basketball Tournament Viewers: 7.08 million


8:30 p.m.

ABC – NBA Basketball Viewers: 3.25 million
CBS – NCAA Basketball Tournament Viewers: 6.06 million


9:00 p.m.

ABC – NBA Basketball Viewers: 4.03 million
CBS – NCAA Basketball Tournament Viewers: 5.08 million


9:30 p.m.

ABC – NBA Basketball Viewers: 4.03 million
CBS – NCAA Basketball Tournament Viewers: 5.58 million


10:00 p.m.

ABC – NBA Basketball Viewers: 4.56 million
CBS – 48 Hours (R) Viewers: 5.31 million

You can see that after Kansas-UConn was over, ABC’s viewership jumped from 4.03 million in the 9:30 half-hour to 4.56 million at 10, but it still wasn’t enough to beat a 48 Hours repeat on CBS.

The NCAA Tournament and NBA rarely go head-to-head, but it shows when the tournament is compelling, viewers will watch.

And compared to last year when Georgetown-Utah aired in the same timeslot, that game had a preliminary viewership of 4.268 and adjusted to 4.84 million when the final numbers came out so this year’s Tournament can be deemed a success.

As for the NBA, even though it got beat by the NCAA Tournament, it still did well for ABC. The overnight rating of 3.7 was up 85% from the week before which had a 2.0. And it’s the highest overnight for an NBA game opposite the NCAA Tournament dating back to 2002 for a Los Angeles Lakers-Sacramento Kings game on NBC.

[NBA ratings courtesy Sports Media Watch]

About Ken Fang

Ken has been covering the sports media in earnest at his own site, Fang's Bites since May 2007 and at Awful Announcing since March 2013.

He provides a unique perspective having been an award-winning radio news reporter in Providence and having worked in local television.

Fang celebrates the four Boston Red Sox World Championships in the 21st Century, but continues to be a long-suffering Cleveland Browns fan.

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