March Madness: Best Opening Thursday Since 1991

TBS, CBS, TNT, truTV Average 8.6 Million Viewers

Fueled by several upsets and four overtime contests, Turner Sports and CBS Sports’ exclusive second-round coverage of the 2014 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship marked the most-watched opening Thursday bout of March Madness in 23 years.

The March 20 telecasts on TBS, CBS, TNT and truTV averaged 8.6 million total viewers, according to Nielsen fast nationals data up 6% compared from 8.1 million in 2013 and the largest audience since 1991. Thursday coverage netted a 5.6 U.S. household rating and 13 share.

Through the first three days, the tourney averaged 8.1 million total viewers, up 9% from the 7.4 million last year, and also stands as the most-viewed start to the event since 1991, when the tournament expanded to four telecast windows for the entire day. Counting the First Four doubleheaders on Tuesday and Wednesday on truTV,  the tournament has posted a 5.3/12.

Thursday’s coverage, which made NCAA Tournament history with a quartet of overtime games in a single day, including No. 12 North Dakota State Bison taking out No. 5 Oklahoma (pictured) in the West Region, recorded growth in three of the four telecast windows.                               

The first daytime window averaged 6.3 million total viewers, the highest viewership for the span since 1991. The telecast window, which featured Dayton’s one-point upset of THE Ohio State in the South Region, rose 17% compared with an average of 5.4 million total viewers last year.

The second daytime telecast window averaged 7.6 million total viewers to garner the most-viewed game window in 23 years, while recording a 6% gain over the average of 7.2 million total viewers in 2013.

The first batch of primetime telecasts averaged 11.4 million, the largest viewership for the window in 23 years. This window opened 3% amelioration from the 11.1 million viewers in 2013.

The second primetime window averaged 8.7 million viewers, down from 9.1 million in 2013.