College Ratings Roundup: truTV Earns Best First Four Rating to Date; CBS’s Big Ten Finale Tops Championship Week Telecasts

March Madness tipped off on a high note, as the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament’s opening night double-header on truTV Tuesday was the highest-rated and most-watched First Four night ever (since the current format began in 2011). truTV’s coverage or Albany’s win over Mount Saint Mary and North Carolina State’s victory over Xavier averaged a 0.9 U.S. household rating and 1.4 million viewers, up 29% and 22 over last year’s First Four opener.

The N.C. State-Xavier game (9 to 11:15 p.m.) earned a 1.1 rating and 1.7 million, making it the highest-rated and most-viewed NCAA First Four telecast ever and up 38% in rating and 42% among total viewers from the comparable game last year. The telecast peaked during the 9:30 p.m. ET half hour with a 1.2 rating and 1.9 million total viewers in the 9:30 p.m. (ET) half-hour, The Albany-Mt St. Mary’s telecast (6:30-8:45 p.m.) peaked with a 1.0 rating and 1.4 million total viewers in the 8:30 p.m. quarter hour…

..The Big Ten Championship Game on CBS was the highest-rated game of Championship week, according to Nielsen overnight ratings. Sunday’s Michigan State/Michigan Big Ten Championship Game earned a 2.4 overnight rating on CBS, down 20% from Ohio State/Wisconsin last year (3.0). Despite leading the Championship Week pack, the 2.4 overnight is the lowest for the title game since Wisconsin/Illinois in 2008 (1.5)…

…Providence’s victory over Creighton in the Big East Men’s Basketball Tournament Championship Game delivered 702,000 viewers on FOX Sports 1 Saturday night (March 15), making it the most-watched college basketball game on the network since launch.  The Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Tournament Championship Game on Saturday (March 15), which preceded the BIG EAST game and saw UCLA beat Arizona, scored 680,000 viewers, making it the second-most watched college basketball game in FOX Sports 1 history.  FOX Sports 1’s biggest college basketball audience coming in to last weekend was Michigan State-Georgetown on Saturday, Feb. 1 (539,000 viewers).

Despite earning record numbers for Fox Sports 1, both conference championship games saw significant drops in viewership compared to last year, when ESPN carried both games. The Big East finale (it’s worth noting that this marks the first year of the “new Big East Conference”) was down 80% from Louisville/Syracuse on ESPN last year (3.4M), while the the Pact 12 Championship was down 56% from UCLA/Oregon on ESPN last year (1.6M)…

…ESPN’s 22 Conference Championships during the week were highlighted by the title games for the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, and Mountain West.

On Sunday, the Virginia/Duke ACC Championship Game earned a 2.2 overnight rating on ESPN, up 38% from Miami/North Carolina last year (1.6) and marking ESPN’s highest rated game of the week. Later in the day, the Florida/Kentucky SEC title game earned a 2.1 overnight, up 62% from Mississippi/Florida on ABC last year (1.3) and standing as ESPN’s second highest rated game of the week.

On Saturday, the Baylor/Iowa State Big 12 Championship Game earned a 1.2 overnight on ESPN, down 20% from Kansas/Kansas State in an earlier window last year (1.5). Meanwhile, the San Diego St./New Mexico Mountain West title game was the top draw of the evening with a 1.4 on CBS, down 18% from New Mexico/UNLV last year (1.7)…

…The 2013-14 college basketball regular season marked ESPN’s most-viewed and highest-rated ever to date, averaging 1,454,000 viewers and a 1.0 HH US rating. It marks the third consecutive year ESPN has set a viewership record for its game telecasts, surpassing the past two seasons by 6% (vs. 1,370,000 viewers in 2012-13) and 7% (vs. 1,353,000 in 2011-12). The 1.0 average HH US rating is up 11% over the 0.9 HH US rating ESPN averaged for 2011-12 and 2012-13. For the season, ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU combined to televise 586 games exclusively, averaging 501,000 total viewers. Overall, ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU combined to reach more than 120,876,000 viewers for game telecasts. For the 12th consecutive year, Louisville was the highest-rated metered market for ESPN’s regular-season telecasts, averaging a 4.5 rating. Greensboro, Kansas City and Raleigh-Durham finished tied for second with a 2.8 rating

ESPN’s digital platforms notched 4,500,000 unique devices, up 36% over last season, viewing nearly 1,400 live games on WatchESPN and ESPN3. Additionally, there were 152,000,000 college basketball video starts this season across, the ESPN mobile Web and SportsCenter app, up 40%.  ESPN coverage accounted for more than 85 percent of the total college basketball social TV conversation.

The ESPN Saturday Primetime Driven by State Farm telecast of then-No. 2 Syracuse defeating then-No. 17 Duke 91-89 in overtime on February 1 is the network’s third most-viewed regular-season men’s college basketball game on record (1991-92 season), averaging 4,745,000 viewers (based on a 2.9 HH US rating which peaked at a 4.4). The matchup generated 5,600,000 minutes of live viewing on WatchESPN, making it the platform’s top men’s college basketball game ever in total minutes viewed. The game trailes only two games from the 2007-08 season – Tennessee at Memphis on February 23 (5,281,000 viewers) and North Carolina at Duke on March 8 (5,612,000 viewers). In addition, ESPN’s coverage of then-No. 2 Michigan State defeating then-No. 1 Kentucky in the State Farm Champions Classic averaged 4,002,000 viewers and a 2.6 HH US rating, making it the network’s second most-viewed non-conference game ever…

…Lastly, CBS’s overnight ratings for the NCAA Tournament Selection Show were the second-lowest since at least 1989. The Show earned a 4.2 overnight rating on CBS Sunday evening, down 5% from last year (4.4), but up 5% from 2012 (4.0). The 4.2 overnight is the second-lowest for the Selection Show since at least 1989 (overnights prior to 1990 were not available), ahead of only 2012. Overnight ratings for the Selection Show have now declined in three of the past four years.

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