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NCAA men’s basketball final reaches 18.1m viewers for Turner

Kansas’ win over UNC was most viewed championship game ever on pay- TV.

6 April 2022 Rory Jones

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  • Duke vs UNC Final Four matchup reached 18.5m viewers
  • 2022 March Madness tournament averages 10.7m viewers per game
  • Women’s basketball final reached 4.85m, largest audience since 2004

The University of Kansas’ win over the University of North Carolina (UNC) was the most watched March Madness final ever on US pay-TV, delivering an average audience of 18.1 million viewers for WarnerMedia-owned Turner Sports.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) basketball men’s title game saw a four per cent viewership increase on the 16.9 million viewers that tuned in for 2021’s final between Gonzaga and Baylor, despite last year’s men’s NCAA basketball final being on the CBS commercial network.

The strong audience figures for the championship game continue the upward ratings trend seen in this year’s Final Four, where 18.5 million tuned into Turner’s platforms to see UNC beat Duke.

This year’s final is now the third most-watched game on pay-TV in the tournament’s history, with UNC’s 2022 semi-final win over Duke second, and only eclipsed by the 22.6 million audience for the 2015 Final Four clash between Wisconsin and Kentucky.

As sports viewership continues to rebound from the nadir of the pandemic, this year’s March Madness averaged 10.7 million viewers per game, marking a 13 per cent year-on-year (YoY) increase. Turner also said that this year’s men’s tournament drew the highest share of total TV viewers since 1994.

CBS and Turner alternate on coverage of the March Madness title game, with the 2022 showpiece marking the first time that the pay-TV network has eclipsed the commercial broadcaster’s audience figures for the final since the start of their current deal in 2016.

The strong ratings also translated to the women’s NCAA basketball tournament, which delivered its highest ratings since 2004. ESPN confirmed that 4.85 million viewers tuned in for the final, with a peak audience of 5.91 million as South Carolina beat Connecticut to claim the title.

Average viewership for the championship game was up 18 per cent on the 2021 edition and 30 per cent on 2019.

Looking further back, South Carolina’s win also generated the fourth largest audience since ESPN took on exclusive coverage of the women’s tournament in 1996.

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