Ratings Roundup: As CBS Sees Decline in Men’s Basketball Championship, ESPN Experiences Noticeable Growth for Women’s Title Game

Ratings roundup is a rundown of recent rating news and is derived from press releases and reports around the industry. In this week’s edition, both NCAA Basketball Championships experience different numbers, YES Network posts record Yankees viewership for Opening Day, ESPN sees a big jump for Opening Day afternoon games, and more.

Men’s Final Declines By 14%, Women’s Final Gets a Ratings Bump

Gonzaga’s chance at history was crushed in the final game of the 2021 National Collegiate Athletic Association men’s basketball tournament, as the Bulldogs lost their first game of the season to the Baylor Bears, and viewership suffered. The 2021 NCAA men’s basketball championship game attracted an average of 16.9 million viewers to CBS Sports on Monday, a 14% decline from the 2019 game. This year’s game was the least-watched championship aired on CBS since the network started broadcasting the games in 1982. It’s also the lowest since WarnerMedia property Turner Sports aired the game in 2018, after CBS and Turner began switching every other year in 2016. That game, between Villanova and the University of Michigan, drew roughly 16.5 million viewers. (CNBC)

The 2021 NCAA Division I Women’s College Basketball Championship game on ESPN — a thrilling 54-53 victory for top-seed Stanford over Arizona – averaged 4,077,000 viewers and is the most-viewed women’s championship game since 2014.

The matchup of Pac-12 rivals was up 9% from the 2019 title game (Notre Dame-Baylor, 3,727,000 viewers). The audience peaked in the final minutes with 5,927,000 viewers. This year’s Final Four weekend in San Antonio is also the sport’s best since 2012. Friday’s two semifinal matchups and Sunday’s championship game averaged 2,850,000 viewers, a 14 percent increase from 2019. (ESPN)

YES Network Posts Record Yankees Viewership on Thursday’s Opening Day

The YES Network owned New York sports on Thursday, generating record viewership for its Blue Jays-Yankees Opening Day telecast in the afternoon and continuing to post great Nets viewership numbers in the evening. Among the highlights:

  • Thursday’s Blue Jays-Yankees game averaged 543,000 Total Viewers on YES in the New York DMA, making it YES’ most-viewed weekday afternoon Season Opening telecast ever. The game was also YES’ second most-viewed weekday afternoon telecast ever
  • Furthermore, Thursday’s Blue Jays-Yankees game was YES’ most-viewed regular season telecast in almost three years
  • In addition to 543,000 average Total Viewers tuning in to YES’ linear telecast of the Blue Jays-Yankees game, 72,739 unique viewers streamed the game live on the new YES App, making it the most-streamed YES game ever on either the YES App or its predecessor, FOX Sports GO (YES Network)

As for the club’s Opening week, YES had its best Yankees opening week in nine years, averaging 391,000 Total Viewers in the New York DMA for its first six Yankees telecasts of the 2021 season. YES averaged 416,000 Total Viewers for its first week of the 2012 season. (Twitter)

Big Jump for ESPN’s Opening Day Afternoon Games

Thursday’s Blue Jays-Yankees Major League Baseball opener averaged 910,000 viewers on ESPN, up 29% from 2019 (Orioles-Yankees: 704K) and the most-watched afternoon game on Opening Day since 2017 — the last time the season opened on a Sunday. The game averaged an additional 543,000 viewers on YES Network in New York, the network’s second-best weekday afternoon audience ever, bringing the combined local and national audience to 1.45 million.

Abbreviated coverage of Dodgers-Rockies averaged 884,000 later in the day, up 64% from ’19 (Diamondbacks-Dodgers: 538K).

Last season opened in July with a primetime doubleheader. Yankees-Nationals drew 4.01 million viewers and Giants-Dodgers 2.78 million. Due to the postponement of Mets-Nationals, there was only one primetime game this year — Astros-A’s, which averaged just 655,000. (SportsMediaWatch)

NBC and Golf Channel Deliver Most Watched Valero Texas Open on Record

NBC Sports’ coverage of amateur competitions and professional tours this past weekend on NBC and GOLF Channel delivered across the board ratings milestones, according to official national data provided by Nielsen.

NBC and GOLF Channel posted the most-watched Valero Texas Open on record (dating to 1999), with a four-round average of 1.4 million viewers, up 7% from 2019. NBC’s weekend coverage was up 16%, while GOLF’s early round and lead-in coverage was up 45% vs. 2019.

Viewership highlights from NBC/GOLF Channel’s coverage of the Valero Texas Open:

  • GOLF Channel’s first round was the most watched on any network since 2002.
  • GOLF Channel’s second round was the most watched on record (dating to 1999).
  • The most-watched third round since 2015, with 1.9 million viewers on NBC.
  • The most-watched final round on record, with 3.4 million viewers on NBC — up 24% vs. 2019.

NBC Sports continues to deliver significant viewership gains for the PGA TOUR in 2021. Through the Valero Texas Open, PGA TOUR coverage on NBC has delivered a 31% year-over-year increase and a 20% increase for GOLF Channel.

Season-to-date in 2021, 10 of 15 comparable events on GOLF Channel/NBC have registered year-over-year viewership growth vs. comparable coverage of the same event.

On the LPGA Tour, NBC Sports’ coverage of the ANA Inspiration delivered a 32% increase over 2019, as Patty Tavatanakit secured her first career major title with a course-record 62 on Sunday, holding off a final round charge from Lydia Ko.

Through five LPGA Tour events in 2021, GOLF/NBC is up 23% from the same point in 2020 (three events prior to the COVID-19 pause).

In addition, NBC Sports’ presentation of the second Augusta National Women’s Amateur averaged 996,000 viewers to rank as the most-watched telecast of women’s golf since the final round of the 2019 Women’s British Open. (NBC Sports)

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