NCAA Men’s Basketball TV Ratings, 1975-2008

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April 15th, 2008

2008 Final Down Slightly From 2007

ncaabbthrough2008.gif

Update April 8, 2008: The final drew 19.50 million viewers. Click the link for more numbers regarding the 2008 final.

Update April 15, 2008: The chart and table have been updated.

I've been hooked on NCAA Basketball since my college days at Virginia (which started about the same time as this chart), and I've watched as much of the NCAA Men's basketball tournament every year as I possibly could. However, looking at the fairly constant TV ratings of the championship game, around 30 million viewers from 1975-1994 and then the steep drop to around 20 million since 2003, I wondered what the heck happened starting in 1995? I can't figure it out, maybe someone else out there knows something that I don't. Give it your best shot in the comments.

Here is the full data and some additional facts:

Year Avg. Through Regional Finals (million) Championship Game (million) Finals Matchup
1975   30.08 UCLA vs KENTUCKY
1976   26.71 INDIANA vs MICHIGAN
1977   26.40 MARQUETTE vs NORTH CAROLINA
1978   25.38 KENTUCKY vs DUKE
1979   35.11 MICHIGAN ST vs INDIANA ST
1980   no data LOUISVILLE vs UCLA
1981   29.06 INDIANA vs NORTH CAROLINA
1982   30.59 NORTH CAROLINA vs GEORGETOWN
1983   32.14 NC STATE vs HOUSTON
1984   25.14 GEORGETOWN vs HOUSTON
1985   31.23 VILLANOVA vs GEORGETOWN
1986   28.71 LOUISVILLE vs DUKE
1987   32.06 INDIANA vs SYRACUSE
1988   26.69 KANSAS vs OKLAHOMA
1989   31.12 MICHIGAN vs SETON HALL
1990   29.26 UNLV vs DUKE
1991   29.02 DUKE vs KANSAS
1992   34.31 DUKE vs MICHIGAN
1993   32.94 NORTH CAROLINA vs MICHIGAN
1994   32.73 ARKANSAS vs DUKE
1995   27.41 UCLA vs ARKANSAS
1996   26.67 KENTUCKY vs SYRACUSE
1997   28.36 ARIZONA vs KENTUCKY
1998   26.60 KENTUCKY vs UTAH
1999   26.30 CONNECTICUT vs DUKE
2000   20.59 MICHIGAN ST vs FLORIDA
2001 8.0 23.87 DUKE vs ARIZONA
2002 8.5 23.69 MARYLAND vs INDIANA
2003 7.2 18.57 SYRACUSE vs KANSAS
2004 8.4 17.09 CONNECTICUT vs GEORGIA TECH
2005 9.7 23.90 NORTH CAROLINA vs ILLINOIS
2006 8.8 17.54 FLORIDA vs UCLA
2007 8.3 19.56 FLORIDA vs OHIO STATE
2008   19.50 KANSAS vs MEMPHIS
2009   17.60 NORTH CAROLINA vs MICHIGAN STATE

  1. NBC televised the game from 1975-1981, CBS from 1982-present.
  2. Since 1975, the NCAA Championship Final game has always been on a Monday night, starting between 8-9pm Eastern until 1991 since then it's started at 9:15 Eastern every year except 1995 when it started at 8:30pm.
  3. 2006 & 2007 data above is Live+SD, all other data is Live viewing.

Nielsen TV Ratings Data: ©2008 Nielsen Media Research, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

 
  • Shane

    During that same March 1995,

    1) No British troops patrolled Belfast ~ maybe people were watching the news?

    2) The 67th Academy Awards were held 3.27 that year. Could this have impacted it?

  • Shane

    During that same March 1995,

    1) No British troops patrolled Belfast ~ maybe people were watching the news?

    2) The 67th Academy Awards were held 3.27 that year. Could this have impacted it?

  • kayarn

    same thing that hurt monday night football: overexposure of the sport.

    college basketball peaks during the first weekend and selection sunday. thats when the most schools are still alive, most people are interested, everyone is still in their office pool. by the second and third weekends, its really down to the the hardcore fans and handful of people still alive in pools.

    people are all “college basketballed” out and are off to focus on opening day of baseball and the nfl draft.

    with so much attention to the sport these days, the national championship isn't what it used to be. same with monday night football, as its just another game. it used to be more, but with all games on tv and the internet and espn, its not the same.

  • kayarn

    same thing that hurt monday night football: overexposure of the sport.

    college basketball peaks during the first weekend and selection sunday. thats when the most schools are still alive, most people are interested, everyone is still in their office pool. by the second and third weekends, its really down to the the hardcore fans and handful of people still alive in pools.

    people are all “college basketballed” out and are off to focus on opening day of baseball and the nfl draft.

    with so much attention to the sport these days, the national championship isn’t what it used to be. same with monday night football, as its just another game. it used to be more, but with all games on tv and the internet and espn, its not the same.

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Bill Gorman

    kayarn, I think you may be onto something. Perhaps when every game began to be televised on CBS [instead of just primetime games] it dulled the interest in the final game.

    I'll see if I can find out when that happened.

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Bill Gorman

    kayarn, I think you may be onto something. Perhaps when every game began to be televised on CBS [instead of just primetime games] it dulled the interest in the final game.

    I’ll see if I can find out when that happened.

  • Ann Marie

    Could it have something to do with low seeded teams winning? If you're out of the office pool early, why watch? And as a Clemson alumni, I have to say I hate those blue bastards from UNC.

  • Ann Marie

    Could it have something to do with low seeded teams winning? If you’re out of the office pool early, why watch? And as a Clemson alumni, I have to say I hate those blue bastards from UNC.

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Bill Gorman

    Anne Marie, I think the significant advancement of low seeded teams is hyped by the media a lot more than it actually happens. Being a numbers guy, if I can get some good data on that I will post it.

    My hatred of the Tar Hells has cooled significantly since Dean Smith left. He truly was evil. I cannot get myself to hate a Roy Williams coached team to nearly the same extent.

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Bill Gorman

    Anne Marie, I think the significant advancement of low seeded teams is hyped by the media a lot more than it actually happens. Being a numbers guy, if I can get some good data on that I will post it.

    My hatred of the Tar Hells has cooled significantly since Dean Smith left. He truly was evil. I cannot get myself to hate a Roy Williams coached team to nearly the same extent.

  • Ann Marie

    Bill, I agree Dean Smith was truly evil, and I am glad he's gone. Maybe when your team has NEVER beaten Carolina at Carolina, and then they whip you in the ACC championship game, you'll understand how I feel :) Can't wait for the NCAA tournament!!

  • Ann Marie

    Bill, I agree Dean Smith was truly evil, and I am glad he’s gone. Maybe when your team has NEVER beaten Carolina at Carolina, and then they whip you in the ACC championship game, you’ll understand how I feel :) Can’t wait for the NCAA tournament!!

  • Ann Marie

    P.S. Did Nielsen change anything about their measurements or data collection in that time frame? That would make more sense to me.

  • Ann Marie

    P.S. Did Nielsen change anything about their measurements or data collection in that time frame? That would make more sense to me.

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Bill Gorman

    Ann Marie, I know exactly how you feel. The Cavaliers had not beaten Clemson in football ever, starting in the year I was born. They finally won when I was 32. ;)

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Bill Gorman

    Ann Marie, I know exactly how you feel. The Cavaliers had not beaten Clemson in football ever, starting in the year I was born. They finally won when I was 32. ;)

  • kayarn

    the tourney used to be just conference winners, i forget exactly when they expanded to let at-large teams in, but that set-up usually limited the final four to only teams like unc, ucla, kansas, kentucky, etc.

    the talent pool is so spread out these days that the power teams making the final four isnt as common. and no matter how much america love a cinderella like george mason, the numbers would much improved had a team like duke or georgetown made it.

  • kayarn

    the tourney used to be just conference winners, i forget exactly when they expanded to let at-large teams in, but that set-up usually limited the final four to only teams like unc, ucla, kansas, kentucky, etc.

    the talent pool is so spread out these days that the power teams making the final four isnt as common. and no matter how much america love a cinderella like george mason, the numbers would much improved had a team like duke or georgetown made it.

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Bill Gorman

    kayarn, The NCAA tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, so that doesn't seem to account for the drop beginning in the mid-90s. It could be the effects of the flight of underclassmen to the NBA. I'm not sure how to put a starting date on that though.

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Bill Gorman

    kayarn, The NCAA tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, so that doesn’t seem to account for the drop beginning in the mid-90s. It could be the effects of the flight of underclassmen to the NBA. I’m not sure how to put a starting date on that though.

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