Last year’s Division I men’s basketball tournament fell prey to a pandemic ratings drop similar to those experienced by several other men’s sports. Early data this year suggests the tournament has rebounded.
The men’s Final Four averaged 13.5 million viewers — a 9% overall increase from last year, according to Turner.
Perhaps the biggest highlight was Saturday night’s Duke-UNC thriller, which drew an average of 16.3 million viewers per preliminary data, not including out-of-home viewership.
The telecast was the most-viewed men’s Final Four event since 2017 and is on pace to be the second most-viewed college basketball game in cable television history.
The numbers are impressive given the game was broadcast on cable network TBS, though perhaps not quite as high as some experts predicted, according to SportsMediaWatch.
Through the Elite Eight, tournament viewership was down just 1% compared with the last pre-pandemic tournament in 2019.
It isn’t just linear TV that’s seen a spike. Going into tonight’s championship, the 2022 tournament has generated more live uniques on Turner’s March Madness Live app than any year since the product launched at least a decade ago.
Coach K’s final game also drew the most minutes consumed and largest audience of any game on MML.