TV Ratings: March Madness Ends on Upswing

CBS coverage of the North Carolina win climbs 21 percent from the 2016 Championship Game.
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

It may not have been the Cinderella story many basketball fans had hoped for, but Monday's NCAA win for the North Carolina Tar Heels wrapped March Madness on a high note. 

Compared with the dipping tournament conclusion in 2016, the final game was up by all measures -- including, as a Tuesday release from CBS Sports was quick to point out, streaming. But the linear growth is perhaps most compelling. An average 14.5 rating among Nielsen's metered market households is up 21 percent from the comparable game last year. It caps off a winning streak from broadcasters that saw collective March Madness ratings across CBS, TNT, TBS and Tru up 13 percent this year. 

The individual game ranks as the third highest-rated since 2005. And while it won't approach the highs set in 2016, it will pull well over 20 million viewers once final time-zone adjusted numbers are tallied.

On the streaming front, March Madness Live generated a new high of 4.4 million live video streams, climbing nearly 30 percent from last year. (Overall, this year's tournament garnered nearly 100 million live video streams.)

NBC easily nabbed No. 2 status for the night, though The Voice did dip against the stiff competition. The singing show averaged a 2.1 rating among adults 18-49 and 9.8 million viewers before a new episode of Taken (0.9 adults). ABC was also off some against the big game, with Dancing With the Stars pulling a 1.6 rating in the key demo and 10.3 million viewers. (Quantico finished ABC's night with just a 0.6 rating in the key demo.) 

24: Legacy earned a 0.8 rating among adults 18-49 on Fox, paired with an also-steady APB (0.6 adults). The CW aired repeats. 

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