Apr 3, 2023; Houston, TX, USA; Connecticut Huskies forward Adama Sanogo (21) celebrates with teammates after defeating the San Diego State Aztecs in the national championship game of the 2023 NCAA Tournament at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

UConn’s 76-59 win over San Diego State in the NCAA Tournament title game on Monday night was not a sexy matchup on paper or on the floor, and it delivered a record-low audience for the final game.

The game drew an audience of 14.693 million viewers, the lowest for a title game by more than a million viewers.

Last year’s title game aired on TBS, and the matchup between Kansas and North Carolina averaged a whopping 18.1 million viewers, good for the most-watched college basketball game ever on cable.

Poor viewership for the title game comes after a year over year double digit decline for the Final Four, which aired on CBS this year compared to cable a year ago. UConn’s win over Miami averaged 12.85 million viewers, the lowest viewership for the late Final Four game since 2003.

This year’s tournament started out strong, with record-setting first day and first round viewership. But while seeing bluebloods lose is fun at first, it’s less fun for networks as the tournament field is culled and marquee teams aren’t around anymore. The Sweet 16 and Elite Eight rounds were both down overall from a year ago with schools like Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, and North Carolina all chilling at home without playing during the second (or even first, in UNC’s case) week of action.

I don’t want to lean too hard into the “not enough top draw programs!” narrative, but that’s the easy and logical conclusion to make following the sharp dropoff in viewership increases after the first round. At the same time, there’s a limit to how much of an effect those programs will have. One of those programs making a Final Four run instead of one of the three first-timers probably wouldn’t raise the cumulative viewership of the rounds so far that we’re talking about increases across the board.

[Data via ShowBuzz Daily]

About Joe Lucia

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