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Ratings: NCAA Men’s Basketball Title Game Tumbles in First Year on Cable

UPDATE: In final nationals from Nielsen, Monday night’s Villanova-North Carolina contest averaged 17.8 million viewers across the Turner networks. This is the second most-viewed college basketball ever on cable, behind only last year’s Wisconsin-Kentucky semifinal, even if this was down 37% from last year’s 18-year high for the event (28.3 million). Viewership peaked from 11:15-11:30 p.m. ET with 22.3 million.

A down-to-the-wire finish couldn’t save this year’s NCAA men’s college basketball championship game from taking an expected ratings hit as it moved to cable for the first time.

Monday’s 77-74 victory by Villanova over North Carolina averaged a 12.0 overnight household rating on TBS, TNT and truTV — down about 30% from an especially high-rated game a year ago on CBS (17.1 for Duke-Wisconsin), according to Nielsen. Compared with the 2014 final between Kentucky and Connecticut (12.9), though, last night’s game was off a more modest 7%.

Among all college basketball games on cable, last night’s contest ranks second all-time, behind only last year’s semifinal game between Wisconsin and Kentucky on TBS (13.3).

CBS and Turner Sports signed a 14-year, $10.8 billion deal in 2010, and this year marked the first time that the final three games of the tournament (the Final Four semifinals on Saturday and Monday’s championship game) aired exclusively on cable. While CBS is available in roughly 116.4 million homes, TBS is in about 93.8 million homes.

Last year’s title game between Duke and Wisconsin averaged a whopping 9.1 rating/27 share in adults 18-49 and 28.3 million viewers overall on CBS — the largest audience for the event in 18 years. CBS had carried the title game every year from 1982 through 2015.

Nielsen will release total-viewer estimates and demographic breakdowns later today.

On the broadcast side Monday night, NBC’s “The Voice” was top dog in adults 18-49 (2.4 rating/8 share), but was down 0.4 week to week to a season low. And that brought down “Blindspot” with it, as the rookie drama also hit a same-night low (1.4/4 in 18-49, 5.7 million).

ABC held up better with “Dancing With the Stars” (1.7/6 in 18-49, 11.6 million viewers overall) and “Castle’ (1.2/4 in 18-49, 6.9 million viewers overall), with the former down a tenth and the latter up a tenth. However, these early numbers include a baseball preemption in Chicago that figure to bring down the “Castle” average in the finals.

CBS, Fox and the CW all aired repeats opposite the big college basketball game and will be back with originals next week.


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