Viewership for the start of March Madness 2016 was not encouraging, with the NCAA Selection Show producing its lowest ratings in close to 20 years. College basketball in general has seen a decline in ratings for the 2015-2016 season, and CBS and Turner Sports hope the trend doesn’t continue in the NCAA Tournament.
It could be difficult to match last year’s television ratings, which were better than the networks might have expected. The first three days of the 2015 NCAA Tournament produced record ratings, dating back to 1991 when CBS began broadcasting the entire tournament.
The 2015 NCAA Tournament was helped by a number of close games. The first Thursday of the tournament made history with five one-point games, producing a 6.6 average rating, according to Forbes. The next day featured an average 6.3 rating, and Saturday’s average rating of 7.4 was up 14 percent from 2014.
The Selection Show’s 3.7 overnight rating was likely lower than expected, in part because the brackets leaked online shortly after the broadcast began. Adding to it was the fact that the show was extended to two hours. If the round of 64 doesn’t feature a lot of competitive games, ratings could continue to decline.
looks small in the absolute but represents an 11% drop https://t.co/FTbUhqx9nX
— Sports TV Ratings (@SportsTVRatings) March 16, 2016
If the regular season is any indication, a few of the top seeds could be knocked off earlier than usual. The No. 1 ranked team in the AP Top 25 Poll was upset more than ever this season, and the No. 1 seeds in this year’s tournament have set a record with 23 combined losses.
In the later rounds of the tournament, having the most popular teams compete for the title often determines whether or not the tournament draws big ratings. The NCAA was fortunate to have both Kentucky and Duke be a part of last year’s Final Four.
With Kentucky losing their first game of the season to Wisconsin, the contest drew the best Final Four rating in 22 years. More than 28 million people watched the Blue Devils defeat the Badgers in the title game, marking the highest rating in 18 years. More than 33 million people watched Duke win the championship.
The entirety of last year’s tournament averaged 11.3 million viewers, according to Nielsen.