Villanova’s last-gasp victory over North Carolina may be the talk of the sporting world, but college basketball’s title game failed to draw more viewers than last year.
This year’s final, which ended 77-74 on a buzzer-beating three from Villanova’s Kris Jenkins, drew 17.8 million total viewers across TBS, TNT and truTV—all cable networks owned by Time Warner (TWC), according to a statement by the NCAA.
That viewership total would make this year’s game the fourth-lowest ever for a title game, reported Sports Media Watch, in front of 2009 (around 17.6 million total viewers), Florida-UCLA in 2006 (17.5 million), and Connecticut-Georgia Tech in 2004 (17.1 million).
This year’s figure was also down by 37% from last year’s finals viewership number of 28.3 million, according to Bloomberg. Last year’s Duke-Wisconsin title game, which was shown on CBS (CBS), was the highest-rated college basketball final in 18 years.
However, last year’s title game was historically high, in some part due to marquee teams like Kentucky and Duke in the Final Four. This year’s game did rank as the third-most watched sporting event in cable history, behind last year’s Wisconsin-Kentucky semifinals (22.6 million) and the United States-Portugal group match in the 2014 World Cup (18.2 million), reported Sports Media Watch.
This year’s title game proved to be a litmus test for Turner, as this marked the first time that the title game for the NCAA’s March Madness tournament was shown on cable TV. Even factoring in how live sporting events fare on cable, it would seem Turner had mixed results, as the game’s numbers for household rating—the metric by which sports ad sales are sold, reported Adweek—garnered a 13.2, which as one reporter noted, would make this the lowest-rated National Championship game ever.
This year marked the first turn in the deal between CBS and TBS, who both signed a 14-year, $10.8 billion contract in 2010 to jointly televise the NCAA Tournament. Starting from this year, the Final Four and the National Championship game will alternate between both networks.