March Madness Ratings Surge To 25-Year Highs Thursday

March Madness remains hot for CBS and Turner Sports, with Thursday’s third-round action of the men’s college basketball tournament soaring to its highest overnight rating in 25 years and likely contributing to declines for dramas “Scandal” and “The Blacklist.”

According to Nielsen metered-market overnights, last night’s coverage generated the highest rating for the Sweet 16 Thursday (9.1 household rating/16 share) since 1991 (when the tournament began its current television format). It was up a big 30% compared to last year (7.0/14).

TBS and CBS averaged a 9.3/17 overnight rating/share from 7-10 p.m. ET, a 39% increase from last year and the best for this window since 1991. And from 9:45 p.m.-12:45 a.m. ET, the networks averaged an 8.9/16, up 20% from last year and tied with 1992 and 1993 as the highest-rated window since 1991.

Interest in watching undefeated Kentucky is likely the main driver in this year’s ratings, and the numbers remained high last night even though the Wildcats won by a massive margin (78-39) over West Virginia.

On the entertainment side Thursday, ABC was the top network in adults 18-49 behind “Grey’s Anatomy” (2.2/8 in 18-49, 8.2 million viewers overall), “Scandal” (2.3/7 in 18-49, 8.1 million viewers overall) and “American Crime” (1.2/4 in 18-49, 5.5 million viewers overall). “Grey’s,” which featured the return of Patrick Dempsey, was up a tick from the previous two weeks while “Scandal” was down a tenth to its season low.

While “Scandal” has cooled without “How to Get Away With Murder” behind it, the Kerry Washington drama has regained some of those viewers in DVR playback. Last week’s episode, for example, fell 11% week to week in same-night 18-49 rating (2.36 vs. 2.65) but that loss was trimmed to 6% in Live+3 (3.71 vs. 3.95).

After falling with its second and third episodes, “American Crime” was able to match last week’s score.

At NBC, “Dateline” (1.0/4 in 18-49, 6.3 million viewers overall) was down from last week’s high, followed by “The Blacklist” (1.6/5 in 18-49, 8.0 million viewers overall), which also dipped and hit its season low. In Live+3, the James Spader drama has been adding 75% to its 18-49 rating in recent weeks, with its March 19 episode surging from 1.82 to 3.19.

“The Slap” closed out the night for NBC (0.7/2 in 18-49, 3.4 million viewers), even or up slightly vs. last week depending on how it washes out in the nationals.

Fox brought back “Bones” (1.3/4 in 18-49, 5.7 million viewers overall) for its first original since December and was up a bit in both the demo and total viewers. And back after three weeks off, “Backstrom” (0.9/3 in 18-49, 3.6 million viewers overall) was down slightly from its prior original.

CW barely registered with repeats of “The Vampire Diaries” (0.3/1 in 18-49, 0.7 million viewers overall) and “The Flash” on a special night (0.2/1 in 18-49, 0.7 million viewers overall).

 

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