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NCAA lifts CBS to early ratings lead

CBS has taken the early lead for the current week with Monday’s NCAA college basketball championship showdown between Arkansas and Duke, which tied as the seventh-highest-rated basketball telecast ever.

The game’s 21.6 rating, 33 share in Nielsen represented just a 3% drop from the ’93 North Carolina-Michigan championship game.

CBS estimates more than 51 million viewers saw all or part of the contest.

Those results repped a big rally for the hoops tournament, whose primetime telecasts had been averaging an 11% drop from last year. NCAA finals now rank as the 10 highest-rated basketball telecasts of all time, with the top NBA entry — Game 7 of the 1988 championship series between the Lakers and Detroit (21.2) — at No. 11 on that list.

CBS has surpassed its overall Monday average only twice this season, both of those with nights of Winter Olympics coverage.

While CBS dominated the night, NBC led both halves of the 8-9 p.m. hour for the first time since November. “Someone Like Me” (12.1/19) won its slot.

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