TV Ratings: Women's Final Four Grows, Men's Bracket Takes Hit

Arizona v Stanford -2021 NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament
Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

In a rare occurrence for live sports in the past year, ESPN's coverage of the NCAA women's Final Four and championship game posted a ratings increase over the weekend. The men's Final Four, however, was down from the last tournament in 2019.

The two women's Final Four games on Friday averaged 2.2 million viewers for ESPN, and Sunday's championship game between Stanford and Arizona brought in 4.08 million people. Both are up from 2019, with the semifinals improving by 22 percent and the title game growing by 10.5 percent.

That's a rarity for TV sports in the past year, as everything from the NFL to the NBA to college football has suffered ratings declines.

The men's Final Four belongs in that group as well, as the average audience for Saturday's two games on CBS (11.81 million) was down 14 percent from 2019. (Both the men's and women's tournaments were canceled last year in the early days of the pandemic.) The later of the two games, Gonzaga's overtime win over UCLA, drew 14.94 million viewers, was off only 6 percent from the same window two years ago, but Baylor's rout of Houston in the early game (which started an hour earlier than usual) dropped a steep 37 percent to 8.18 million viewers.

It's worth noting, however, that while it was down, the men's Final Four suffered smaller drops than the most recent World Series, NBA and NHL finals and college football's national championship game.

Numbers for Monday's men's championship game will be available later in the day.

Elsewhere Sunday, the SAG Awards hit an all-time low of just 957,000 viewers on TNT and TBS, falling by more than 50 percent from the 2.01 million who watched the (pre-pandemic) ceremony in 2020. ABC's American Idol led the broadcast networks among adults 18-49 with a 0.85 rating, and CBS' 60 Minutes was the most watched among all viewers with 7.66 million people watching.

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