It is hard to think of a partnership that has worked out better than CBS-Turner Sports for the NCAA tournament. Making all the games available, allowing the fans to pick and choose, has proved to be a windfall.
Through Sunday, this year’s tournament is generating its highest ratings since 1994. The telecasts are averaging 9,701,000 total viewers-to-date, up 11% from last year’s 8,717,000 viewers.
And this is occurring despite the lack of a super team or any true superstar players, the supposed prerequisites these days. Yet people are watching.
The ratings speak to the power of saturation coverage.
Making the games available on multiple platforms means you’re never stuck watching a bad game. It sucks in the fans who want to monitor their teams in the various pools. It also doesn’t hurt that the NCAA tournament, once again, delivered the anything-is-possible upsets that has become the signature for this event.
Ultimately, it all leads to fans forming a deeper connection to the tournament and the teams.
“We set a high standard for the ratings, and we’ve outpaced it,” said CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus. “The partnership is working well from every standpoint.”
Will it continue for the Final Four? There will be three high-profile programs in Atlanta (Louisville, Michigan and Syracuse) and one Cinderella (Wichita State). Viewers will tune in to see the on-going saga with Louisville and injured player Kevin Ware. Michigan-Syracuse has plenty of storylines.
Again, it isn’t the sexiest Final Four, and much of the ratings will depend on the quality of games. However, given the momentum, if CBS gets some cliffhangers, the numbers should be good.