NCAA Basketball Delivers Highest Overnight Ratings in 20 Years

9:25 AM PST 03/18/2011 by Lindsay Powers
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

With the move to four networks and more games broadcast, the Division 1 men's basketball championship was up 24% from 2010.

The expansion to multiple networks provided a ratings boost for March Madness games on Thursday.

The combined coverage on CBS, TBS, TNT and truTV delivered a 5.7 rating, up 24 percent from CBS Sports' 2010 coverage, which saw the network switch back-and-forth between games and drew a 4.6 rating, according to Nielsen stats.

With four networks instead of one covering games, it was the highest-rated Thursday of the NCAA tournament in metered markets since 1991, when it expanded to four telecast windows for the day.

Noon to 4:15 p.m. ET rated a 4.4, up 42 percent from a 3.5 last year. 3 p.m. to 6:45 p.m. ET rated 5.1, up 46 percent. 7 p.m. to 9:45 p.m. ET rated 6.5, up 8 percent. 9:15 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. ET rated 6.9, up 13 percent.

CBS and Turner agreed last spring to collectively shell out $10.8 billion for a 14-year contract to carry the annual tournament. In addition to shared Web and wireless rights, games will air across four networks: CBS, TNT, TBS and truTV. For the first time in the tournament’s 73-year history, all 67 games will be televised in their entirety.

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