The third round is in the books and Turner Sports and CBS's exclusive live coverage of the 2011 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship has produced the tournament's sweetest ratings through the first week of games in 17 years.
Overall, the tournament, which has reached the regional final, or Sweet 16, stage, averaged a 5.5 U.S. household rating and 13 share through March 20, up 15% from the 4.8/11 generated by CBS at this stage of the tournament last year, according to Nielsen Fast Nationals.
TBS, CBS, TNT and TruTV averaged 8.4 million total viewers, 14% more than the 7.4 million viewers for CBS in 2010.
All told, the 2011 NCAA tournament has delivered 81.3 million people 2+, up 17% from 69.6 million viewers for CBS Sports' 2010 coverage, according to the media companies.
The networks completed their third-round coverage on March 20, combining to deliver an average 6.6 rating and 14 share, a 16% jump from the 5.7/13 a year ago on CBS. That performance matched the 6.6/15 (2005) as the highest rating for the first Sunday of the tournament since the 2000 event yielded a 7.2/17. The March 20 coverage averaged 10.5 million viewers, an 18% gain from last year's 8.9 million viewers on the equivalent Sunday.
With Turner and CBS inking a 14-year, $10.8 billion rights deal with the NCAA, each game airs in its own window, the first time in the 73-year history of the event that all the contests have a dedicated telecast.
The overall tournament average-to-date continues to deliver double-digit growth in key adult and male demos over 2010, notably:
A18-34 +40% (2,247 vs. 1,609)
A18-49 +18% (4,011 vs. 3,397)
A25-54 +15% (4,136 vs. 3,611)
M18-34 +40% (1,516 vs. 1,080)
M18-49 +23% (2,848 vs. 2,322)
M25-54 +21% (2,973 vs. 2,460)