Last year's NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament Final game produced a sharp uptick in viewership following 2009's near record low. The closeness of the game kept viewers interested all the way to the buzzer.
The unknown competitiveness of tonight's contest is the trickiest part of guessing the viewership for a single game. The NCAA tournament having been telecast on four networks this season is up nicely in overall viewership, and Butler's David-ish return to the Final to face Goliath-ish Connecticut is a nice narrative, but I don't think either of those factors matters as much as a close game does.
The Final could easily produce another viewership uptick if the game is close. But if the game turns into a blowout early, viewership will almost certainly suffer.
What's your guess?
NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament Viewership 1975-2010:
|Year||Through Regional Finals (million)||Regional Finals (million)||Championship Game (million)||Finals Matchup|
|1975||30.08||UCLA vs KENTUCKY|
|1976||26.71||INDIANA vs MICHIGAN|
|1977||26.4||MARQUETTE vs NORTH CAROLINA|
|1978||25.38||KENTUCKY vs DUKE|
|1979||35.11||MICHIGAN ST vs INDIANA ST|
|1980||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||26.6||KENTUCKY vs UTAH|
|1999||26.3||CONNECTICUT vs DUKE|
|2000||20.59||MICHIGAN ST vs FLORIDA|
|2001||8.0||9.80||23.87||DUKE vs ARIZONA|
|2002||8.5||10.65||23.69||MARYLAND vs INDIANA|
|2003||7.2||8.46||18.57||SYRACUSE vs KANSAS|
|2004||8.4||9.38||17.09||CONNECTICUT vs GEORGIA TECH|
|2005||9.7||12.38||23.9||NORTH CAROLINA vs ILLINOIS|
|2006||8.8||10.11||17.54||UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA vs UCLA|
|2007||8.3||9.20||19.56||UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA vs OHIO STATE|
|2008||8.0||9.02||19.5||KANSAS vs MEMPHIS|
|2009||17.6||NORTH CAROLINA vs MICHIGAN STATE|
|2010||23.94||BUTLER vs DUKE|
- NBC televised the game from 1975-1981, CBS from 1982-present.
- 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.
- 2006-10 data above is Live+SD, all other data is Live viewing.
Nielsen TV Ratings Data: ©2010 Nielsen Media Research, Inc. All Rights Reserved.