The Virginia-Texas Tech NCAA Tournament Championship Game on Monday night lacked much of the sex appeal of games in previous years, and surely was less of a marquee matchup than CBS was hoping for. But the game was a great back and forth contest, with Virginia prevailing over Texas Tech in overtime, and the overnight rating was about what everyone expected.
According to CBS, the game drew a 12.4 overnight, which is up 20% from last year’s Villanova-Michigan game…that aired on TBS. Virginia-Texas Tech was down 14% from CBS’s last title game, UNC-Gonzaga in 2017 (which drew a 14.5 overnight).
This isn’t surprising! Last year’s Villanova-Michigan tilt was the least-watched and lowest-rated title game ever, and you can pin much of the blame for that on the game airing on TBS. Of course Virginia-Texas Tech would be up compared to that game. If not, CBS would really have issues spinning the rating. And yes, of course the game was down from 2017, because neither Virginia nor Texas Tech has the national appeal of North Carolina.
But it’s also worth noting that title games in recent memory have done worse than Virginia-Texas Tech. In fact, it’s been less than a decade since a CBS-aired title game drew a lower overnight. According to Bloomberg’s Eben Novy-Williams, the 2012 title game between Kansas and Kentucky drew a lower overnight than Monday’s Cavaliers-Red Raiders matchup.
— Eben Novy-Williams (@novy_williams) April 9, 2019
And hey, once CBS throws in the streaming numbers (which you know they will), the total viewership for this year’s title game seems likely to clear 20 million – yes, down from 2017, but likely landing somewhere in between 2012 (20.869 million viewers, per Sports Media Watch) and 2014 (21.196 million).
Incredible? Of course not. Disastrous? Hardly, especially considering the NCAA Tournament as a whole averaged a 7.1 rating this year (again, per CBS) and that live streaming hours were up by 29%.