While many questioned Tulsa’s inclusion in this year’s NCAA tournament bracket, the Golden Hurricane’s presence didn’t hurt the ratings. Wednesday’s Tulsa-Michigan play-in game on truTV drew 2.2 million total viewers and a 1.4 U.S. household rating, both the second-most in history for a single First Four game, and that game (which the Wolverines won 67-62) helped the overall First Four (which also featured 14-19 Holy Cross knocking off 22-12 Southern by a score of 59-55) pull in 5.3 million total viewers and a 3.4 rating, both the second-most of all time. The averages of First Four coverage, 1.5 million total viewers and a 1.0 rating, were up 12 per cent and 11 per cent respectively from last year for truTV, and they were also both the second-best numbers of all time in those categories. Turner also reported a 42 per cent increase in minutes consumed and a 24 per cent increase in stream starts on its TVE streaming platforms.
Were the strong ratings really about Tulsa? Probably not. They likely had a lot more to do with Michigan’s massive fanbase. The widespread controversy around the selection of the Golden Hurricane likely didn’t hurt, though, with some perhaps tuning in to see if they were as bad as the pundits claimed. There could be other factors at play, too, including the close nature of both games and some viewers perhaps figuring out where/what truTV is (although there are plenty still in the dark!). Still, Turner’s likely pretty happy with these ratings, especially after college basketball struggled almost across the board during the regular season. They’re a great start to the tournament, and one that may bode well for Turner and CBS.
UPDATE: Here’s the total numbers via our own Douglas Pucci: