TV Ratings: Men’s NCAA Final Falls Short of Women’s Title Game for First Time

TV Ratings: Men’s NCAA Final Falls Short of Women’s Title Game for First Time

The audience for the NCAA men’s basketball championship ticked up from last year’s low — but for the first time, the men’s game drew a smaller TV crowd than the women’s final.

Connecticut’s 75-60 victory over Purdue on Monday — a result that was not in doubt for most of the second half — averaged 14.82 million viewers across TBS, TNT and TruTV. That’s a smidge better than the 14.69 million who watched UConn win the title last year on CBS, which is the lowest on record.

Neither the championship nor either of Saturday’s Final Four contests was the most watched game of the tournament — an exceedingly rare occasion. The top game in this year’s men’s March Madness was the March 31 Elite Eight matchup between North Carolina State and Duke, which had 15.14 million viewers. The Final Four games drew 11.45 million and 14.18 million viewers.

Sunday’s women’s championship game between South Carolina and Iowa brought in 18.87 million viewers on ABC and ESPN, a record for women’s basketball in the United States and the most watched hoops contest of any kind in five years. The women’s final boasted a 90 percent increase over the 9.92 million who tuned in for the 2023 game. The women’s Final Four games averaged 7.17 million and 14.42 million viewers, with the latter game (Iowa vs. Connecticut) setting an all-time record for women’s hoops, until it was broken two days later with the final game.

The men’s tournament as a whole improved some on the 2023 edition, averaging 9.9 million viewers (up 3 percent year-to-year) over its 67 games on CBS, TBS, TNT and TruTV. It also posted double-digit growth among adults under 35, rising 14 percent from a year ago.

The women’s tournament had more than doubled its audience heading into the Final Four, and with two record-setting games in the final weekend it’s likely to stay in that territory. ESPN is releasing a full tournament ratings summary Wednesday; this story will be updated when it becomes available.

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