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March Madness men’s final draws 16.9m viewers

CBS ratings beat 2018 but marks second lowest all-time figure for NCAA title game.

7 April 2021 Tom Bassam
  • ESPN’s coverage of the women’s final draws 4m viewers, up 10.5% on 2019
  • Women’s final four ratings up 22% on previous edition after 2020 cancellation

The Baylor Bears’ routine win over the Gonzaga Bulldogs in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) men’s basketball title game avoided record low domestic TV ratings, bringing in an average of 16.9 million viewers for CBS.

That average viewership figure marked a 14 per cent decline from the 19 million viewers who tuned in for the most recent March Madness finale in 2019, with last year’s showpiece cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

With Gonzaga looking to complete a perfect undefeated season, the 2021 national championship game managed to draw more viewers than the 2018 edition when WarnerMedia’s Turner Sports aired Villanova’s 79-62 victory over the University of Michigan to 16.5 million viewers.

For the 2021 men’s final four games, an average of 14.9 million viewers watched Gonzaga’s thrilling overtime win over UCLA on 3rd April, with the audience peaking at 18.8 million viewers. Baylor’s win over Houston in the early window game brought in 8.1 million viewers, down 37 per cent compared with the 2019 equivalent.

CBS’ average for the double-header was 11.81 million viewers, the second-lowest for the men’s final four on record after the 2016 edition. The 2021 games were down 18 per cent from 2019  and down ten per cent from 2018.

On the women’s side, ESPN confirmed that Stanford Cardinals’ 54-53 win over the Arizona Wildcats was the most-watched NCAA basketball final since 2014. The Sunday showpiece attracted an average of four million viewers, up 10.5 per cent on 2019, and peaked at 5.9 million.

The Disney-owned network’s coverage of the semi-finals saw a 22 per cent uptick in average audience from 2019, with 2.2 million viewers. Stanford’s victory over South Carolina drew an average of 1.6 million viewers, while the University of Connecticut loss to Arizona brought in 2.6 million viewers.

the NCAA men’s basketball title game brought in an average of 16.9 million viewers for CBS

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