NCAA tourney ratings best since '91


PITTSBURGH, Pa. -- A bevy of overtime games in the opening weekend of the NCAA men's basketball tournament gave CBS Sports a tie for its best ratings for a first round since 1991.

Meanwhile, ABC traveled the "October Road" to victory in Thursday's primetime with a time-period win with its new 10 p.m. drama. "October Road" averaged 14.3 million viewers and a 5.8 rating/16 share in the adults 18-49 demographic, according to preliminary data released Friday by Nielsen Media Research. Final ratings for Thursday night's "October Road" premiere weren't going to be available until this morning.

The first three days of "March Madness" telecasts -- Thursday, Friday and Saturday -- averaged a 5.5 overnight household rating/12 share, according to preliminary data released Sunday by Nielsen Media Research. That's up 2% from 2006's 5.4/12 and the best three-day average since the 5.5/12 in 2002.

Saturday afternoon's second game that began at 3:30 p.m. EST was up 11% to a 6.8/16 for No. 5 seed Butler's 62-59 win over the Maryland Terrapins and Texas A&M's victory over Louisville 72-69. It was CBS's best ratings during that time since 1988. Saturday was had several high-profile overtime games, including two in the early prime window (Vanderbilt-Washington State and Pittsburgh-Virginia Commonwealth) that boosted the ratings to a 7.6/16, up 7% compared to a year ago. The last window -- which featured victories by North Carolina and UCLA -- was up 19% to a 7.1/13.

Saturday's all-day average in the metered markets was 6.8/15 up 6% from last year. It was the second-best rating for a Saturday second round since 2002.

Thursday and Friday's first-round action averaged an overnight household rating of 5.0/11, which was tied with 2005 for the best first-round ratings since 1991. It was also up 2% from last year's 4.9/11. The 2:45 p.m. ET-5:45 p.m. ET window -- which featured Winthrop's upset of Notre Dame and Nevada's overtime win over Creighton -- averaged a 4.3/11, up 5% from a year ago (4.1/11). CBS Sports said it was its highest rating in that window since it opened that broadcast time in 1991.