March Madness NCAA Tournament Men's Women's Mar 17, 2022; San Diego, CA, USA; A general view of the March Madness logo at center court before the first round of the 2022 NCAA Tournament at Viejas Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

With the NCAA Tournament field pared from 68 to 16, we can take a couple of days to relax and recompose ourselves. But looking back at the first two rounds of the tournament, it’s clear that plenty of fans were interested.

Per Austin Karp of the Sports Business Journal, this year’s NCAA Tournament is averaging 3.06 million viewers per game, the best mark since the 2017 tournament averaged 3.07 million viewers through the second round.

Karp also notes that the “combined network average” (which is not a metric I love) through the second round is 9.119 million viewers, also the best mark since 2017.

For as good as that average seems, some extra context is needed: the 2017 Tournament was a freight train for CBS and Turner, with the first two rounds that year posting a combined network average of 9.325 million viewers, the highest-market since 1993.

Of note: this year’s data includes Nielsen’s out of home viewership (which was included last year, but not in the tournaments prior to that), and does not include viewership on the March Madness Live app (which, according to Karp, is also doing quite well, though actual numbers weren’t revealed).

Unsurprisingly, the most-watched games from this season’s tournament came over the weekend.

Here’s a table of the top six, which all exceeded six million viewers and all aired on CBS, via ShowBuzz Daily.

Game Day Viewers
Duke-Michigan State Sunday 11.223 million
Tennessee-Michigan Saturday 9.833 million
Kansas-Creighton Saturday 8.71 million
Villanova-Ohio State Sunday 8.616 million
Baylor-North Carolina Saturday 7.118 million
Murray State-Saint Peter’s Saturday 6.694 million

The most watched cable game was Gonzaga-Memphis Saturday night on TBS, which drew 4.367 million viewers. In the first round, the most-watched game was Kentucky-Saint Peter’s Thursday evening on CBS, which drew 5.456 million viewers.

On the other side of the coin, just two games couldn’t crack 500,000 viewers: Baylor-Norfolk State drew 457,000 Thursday afternoon on TBS, and Texas Tech-Montana State drew 441,000 viewers Friday afternoon on TNT.

About Joe Lucia

I hate your favorite team. I also sort of hate most of my favorite teams.