The NCAA March Madness basketball tournament is one of the most highly-anticipated sporting events of the year, but this year’s tournament has been particularly chaotic – and the record-breaking viewership numbers certainly reflect that.
On Saturday night, the NCAA announced a total audience delivery of 9.2 million viewers across CBS, TBS, TNT, truTV, and March Madness Live for the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday and Friday, making it the most-watched first round in the tournament’s history.
CBS Sports and Warner Bros. Discovery Sports deliver most-watched First Round (Thu/Fri) of NCAA Men's Tournament ever. pic.twitter.com/H6yG3pFqy4
— March Madness Men’s Basketball TV (@MM_MBB_TV) March 18, 2023
Friday’s numbers were also historic by themselves, averaging 9.3 million total viewers across all platforms, making it the most-watched Friday first round of all time, as well. These numbers were undoubtedly boosted by No. 16 seed Fairleigh Dickinson’s thrilling upset of No. 1 seed Purdue on Friday night. Thursday’s numbers were impressive too, averaging 8.4 million viewers per window, which was the best mark for an opening-round Thursday since the 2015 season.
Of course, these numbers don’t happen without compelling games, and this year’s tournament has been particularly wild. Not only did Fairleigh Dickinson become just the second No. 16 seed ever to beat a No. 1 seed, but No. 2 seed Arizona also fell to No. 15 Princeton, and No. 4 seed Virginia lost to No. 14 seed Furman.