Taking a hit on the first night of the Sweet 16 round, CBS and Turner Sports' coverage of the 2012 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship is down a bit in the ratings.
After being equal with a 5.6 U.S. rating for the 2011 event through the first three rounds on CBS, TBS, TNT and TruTV, the 2012 version of March Madness is now averaging a 5.5 mark through March 22's quartet of Sweet 16 contests. That's down 4% from a 5.7 last year, the first in which the media partners presented the tournament in the new format in which every game has a national window. However, it was up 10% from a 5.0 mark in 2010 and was the event's second-best performance since 2006, according to Nielsen data.
All told, the 2012 tourney has averaged 8.4 million watchers to date, off 5% from 8.8 million through the corresponding stage last year.
Viewership may have been hampered by the fact that March Madness 2012 doesn't include any entries west of Texas. Moreover, the equivalent first Sweet 16 night in 2011 included eventual champion UConn versus San Diego State, perennial power Duke getting dismissed by Arizona and Butler, making its second Cinderella run to the final with a win over Wisconsin, which last night went out against East top seed Syracuse on a missed three in the final seconds.
The March 22 lineup also included West top-seed Michigan State falling to Louisville, Ohio State taking out Cincinnati and Florida chomping the Golden Eagles of Marquette.