March Madness: TBS Dunks Cable's Largest Hoops Audiences with Elite Eight TelecastsWisconsin-Arizona Averages 9.9M Viewers; Florida-Dayton Delivers 7.2M 3/30/2014 5:12 PM Eastern
Saturday’s Elite Eight matchups delivered the highest-rated and largest audiences ever for college basketball on cable.
The West regional final that went Wisconsin’s way over Arizona in overtime and sent the Badgers to the Final Four on April 5 averaged 9.9 million viewers, according to Nielsen fast nationals data, to rank as the medium’s most-watched college basketball contest ever. Wisconsin-Arizona averaged a 5.8 U.S. household rating.
The earlier Elite Eight matchup in which Florida finally quelled the quest of the upstart Dayton Flyers scored with 7.2 million viewers and briefly held the distinction as the most-watched college basketball in cable history. Florida-Dayton delivered a 4.3 household rating.
TBS's twin telecasts -- Saturday marked the first time Elite Eight action, more formally known as the regional finals, aired on cable -- averaged 8.6 million viewers.
The audience records will likely fall next Saturday when TBS airs the Final Four doubleheader for the first time from AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. TBS's national feed, which will feature Jim Nantz and Greg Anthony on the game call, will be flanked by local "Teamcasts" on TNT and truTV, each of which will have their own production and camera angles, announce teams tied to the participating schools, and pre-game and halftime shows.
The Wisconsin-Arizona telecast peaked with 12.6 million total viewers in the 11 p.m. (ET) quarter hour, while Florida-Dayton maxed out with 9.6 million total viewers from 8 p.m. to 8:15 p.m., as the Gators earned a berth in North Texas, after failing in this round the prior three years.
Overall, through Saturday, the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship averaged 9.6 million watchers, the highest viewership for the tournament since 1993, with the average audience up 2% compared with the similar stage of the 2013 tourney.