NCAA Tips with Top Opening Thursday Performance Since 1991

TBS, TNT, TruTV, CBS Team to Deliver 8.1 Milllion Viewers
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The first full day of the 2013 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship tournament delivered the tourney’s top opening Thursday coverage in over 20 years.

TBS, CBS, TNT and truTV on Thursday, March 21, combined to deliver 8.1 million total viewers, the most on first Thursday of March Madness coverage since 1991, when the tournament expanded to four telecast windows, according to Nielsen Fast Nationals data.

Thursday’s presentation, on that Nielsen basis, earned a 5.5 rating and 12 share, up 4% from 2012’s 5.3/13. That marked the highest average rating for the tourney’s first Thursday since a 5.6/14 performance in 1994.

The 2013 NCAA Tournament to date, including the First Four, averaged a 5.0/11, a 6% increase from last year’s 4.7/11, the event’s best since a 5.0/11 in 2006.  All told, the 2013 NCAA Tournament to date – with 7.4 million viewers, up 7% from 6.9 million in 2012 -- is the most-watched since 1993.

Three of the four windows outperformed their counterparts from a year ago. The first telecast window from 12 p.m.-4:15 p.m, combined to earn a 4.0/13, 14% greater than last year’s 3.5/13, while the second window from 2:30-7:15 p.m. netted a 5.1/13, a 6% gain over 2012’s 4.8/13.

The third telecast window from 7-10:15 p.m. averaged a combined 7.1/12, 11% above the 6.4/12 from the opening Thursday in 2012.

The final window from 9:30 p.m. to 12:34 p.m. declined to a 5.9/11 from a 6.4/12 share, even, even though it featured No. 14-seed Harvard's first-ever tournament victory over third-seed New Mexico. Window viewership no doubt suffered from a pair of major blowouts: VCU’s 46-point win versus Akron and Syracuse’s 47-point triumph over Montana