SBD/March 21, 2011/Media

NCAA Tourney Ratings Tied For Best First Four Days In 20 Years

The NCAA men's basketball tournament is averaging a combined 6.2 overnight Nielsen rating through Sunday across CBS, TBS, TNT and truTV, which is tied with '91 and '93 as the best overnight average for the first four full days of games since the tournament expanded coverage to all live games. The 6.2 average for the four nets is also up 17% from a 5.3 average for CBS through the same point last year. Yesterday's coverage averaged a combined 7.3 overnight, which is tied with '98 and is the highest-rated first Sunday in 17 years. The 7.3 overnight is up 14% from a 6.4 rating last year. The Duke-Michigan game on CBS yesterday was the weekend's highest-rated game, earning a 6.9 rating. The lowest-rated game of the weekend was Marquette-Xavier on truTV, which earned a 0.4 overnight on Friday night (Austin Karp, THE DAILY).

'11 NCAA BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT
DATE
MATCHUP
NET
START (ET)
OVERNIGHT
3/20
Duke-Michigan
CBS
2:45pm
6.9
3/20
Ohio State-George Mason
CBS
5:00pm
6.4
3/19
Florida-UCLA
CBS
3:00pm
5.4
3/20
North Carolina-Washington
CBS
12:00pm
4.6
3/19
Richmond-Morehead State
CBS
5:15pm
4.4
3/19
Kentucky-West Virginia
CBS
12:00pm
4.1
3/19
BYU-Gonzaga
CBS
7:45pm
3.4
3/18
Washington-Georgia
CBS
10:00pm
3.1
3/20
Arizona-Texas
TNT
6:00pm
2.9
3/18
North Carolina-Long Island
CBS
7:00pm
2.9
3/20
Kansas-Illinois
TNT
8:45pm
2.8
3/19
UConn-Cincinnati
TBS
9:45pm
2.6
3/20
Florida State-Notre Dame
TBS
9:45pm
2.6
3/18
Arizona-Memphis
CBS
2:45pm
2.2
3/19
San Diego State-Temple
TNT
6:00pm
2.1
3/19
Wisconsin-Kansas State
TNT
9:00pm
2.1
3/18
Texas-Oakland
CBS
12:00pm
2.1
3/18
Kansas-Boston Univ.
TBS
6:45pm
1.8
3/20
VCU-Purdue
TBS
7:00pm
1.8
3/18
Ohio State-UTSA
TNT
5:00pm
1.7
3/19
Butler-Pittsburgh
TBS
7:00pm
1.5
3/20
Marquette-Syracuse
truTV
7:30pm
1.4
3/18
VCU-Georgetown
TNT
9:45pm
1.3
3/18
Illinois-UNLV
TBS
9:15pm
1.2
3/18
George Mason-Villanova
TNT
2:00pm
1.1
3/18
Purdue-St. Peter's
TNT
7:15pm
1.0
3/18
Michigan-Tennessee
truTV
12:30pm
0.9
3/18
Syracuse-Indiana State
truTV
10:30pm
0.9
3/18
Florida State-Texas A&M
TBS
4:00pm
0.9
3/18
Duke-Hampton
truTV
3:00pm
0.7
3/18
Notre Dame-Akron
TBS
1:30pm
0.7
3/18
Marquette-Xavier
truTV
7:30pm
0.4
 

NUMBERS GAME: NCAA tournament games on CBS, TBS, TNT and truTV through Saturday are averaging a combined 5.1 U.S. rating and 7.828 million viewers. Those figures are up 11% and 12%, respectively, from a 4.6 rating and 7.007 million viewers through the same period last year on CBS. Saturday's coverage across the four networks averaged a 5.9 U.S. rating, up 9% from a 5.4 rating on CBS last year. Thursday's and Friday's coverage of the tournament each averaged a combined 5.0 U.S. rating, marking the best first Thursday and first Friday audience since '91. NCAA tournament online and mobile applications earned 7.6 million visits for coverage of the tournament on Thursday, up 22% from last year. There also were 3.3 million hours of live streaming video consumed across broadband and mobile apps. NCAA.com and March Madness on Demand earned 4.1 million unique visitors Thursday and 774,000 unique users on the mobile apps (THE DAILY).

SEAMLESS COVERAGE: USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand notes CBS and Turner "put NCAA officiating coordinator John Adams on-air" after both Saturday's Butler-Pittsburgh game and yesterday's North Carolina-Washington game, to review "how officials handled the game clock." CBS Sports VP/Communications Jennifer Sabatelle said that "having Adams at CBS/Turner's Atlanta studio was a new tack ... as CBS in past years had set up access to officials 'but not to have them on camera'" (USA TODAY, 3/21). In N.Y., Phil Mushnick writes CBS and Turner during coverage of Butler-Pittsburgh "got 'er done, got 'er done good." Mushnick: "When TV gets it right -- when it sticks the landing, all natural, no artificial additives -- it shines like a new quarter" (N.Y. POST, 3/21). In St. Petersburg, Tom Jones writes the net was "fully prepared" for the conclusion of the Butler-Pittsburgh game, the "first big moment of the NCAA Tournament." Jones: "CBS was all over it: timely reports, replays and analysis" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 3/21). In Denver, Dusty Saunders: "No one can accuse NCAA's TV partners of ignoring Saturday's bizarre, controversial ending when Butler upset Pittsburgh" (DENVER POST, 3/21).

MAKING ROOM FOR THE PRESIDENT: CBS altered its coverage of the Texas-Oakland NCAA tournament game Friday afternoon with 26 seconds to go in order to air President Obama's live public address on Libya. With Texas up five points, CBS went to a split screen around 2:20pm ET to air both Obama's address and the remainder of the game, taking the audio feed from the "CBS News Special Report" rather than the on-court action. Shortly after 2:00, the network began alerting viewers of Obama's unexpected news conference with a constant scroll at the bottom of the Texas-Oakland game. With TNT not scheduled to carry its first game until 2:15, and the exact time of Obama's address unclear, the Turner Sports network began airing Texas-Oakland at about 2:00, with slightly more than four minutes remaining in the contest. CBS informed viewers that the game could be found on TNT, which aired the game until the 2:15 tip of George Mason-Villanova. As soon as Texas defeated Oakland, CBS ended all March Madness coverage and focused exclusively on the President (Brian Helfrich, THE DAILY). In Houston, David Barron noted CBS "first alerted viewers at about" 1:49 that it "would switch Texas-Oakland to TNT at" 2:00 (CHRON.com, 3/18). The AP noted Obama "held news conferences during the first two full days of the NCAA tournament," and CBS "took different approaches each day." The net "did not cover the president live on Thursday, instead summarizing his speech in a one-minute report aired during a break in NCAA coverage within a half-hour of his appearance." CBS News President David Rhodes said that Friday's speech, "about the possibility of U.S. military involvement, was more newsworthy than Thursday's and compelled the live coverage." Rhodes: "You've got a large audience for the game; you don't want to alienate them. You also want them to see the news." Rhodes indicated that CBS officials "discussed a range of options, including pulling away from the game entirely or not airing the live report." However, the fact that CBS Sports Chair Sean McManus "was, up until a month ago, also CBS News president" was "one thing that may have avoided an internal battle between news and sports" (AP, 3/18).

CHANGE FOR THE BETTER: In N.Y., Bob Raissman wrote the "four network setup for NCAA hoops is all good." You "can watch whatever game you want." Raissman: "More importantly, the days of whining over whether CBS switched to the right game, or stayed to long in a blowout, are over" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/20). In Cleveland, Bud Shaw wrote having every game "available for viewing in its entirety -- full-blown national coverage as it's billed on CBS, TNT, TBS and ... truTV -- is an empowering development for fans of March Madness." Shaw: "Every NCAA Tournament brings a surprise. Some bring an absolute revelation. ... This year brings another. There's a truTV?" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 3/20).

TURNER BROADCASTERS FITTING IN
: In Ft. Worth, Mac Engel wrote the "best part" of CBS and Turner's coverage, "other than being able to watch every game, is the addition of Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley to the experience." There is "no better trio in sports broadcasting right now." Engel: "I'm not sure Barkley has done much research on this field, but his opinions are fun, light and he doesn't take this thing too seriously" (STAR-TELEGRAM.com, 3/18). The ST. PETERSBURG TIMES' Jones writes Barkley, had a "good weekend, doing what he does best -- offering up strong opinions." Jones: "So far, so good." Meanwhile, Smith "brings a fresh perspective to his March Madness analysis and offers up tidbits that are intelligent, thought-provoking and interesting" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 3/21). However, the DAILY NEWS' Raissman wrote CBS analyst Greg Anthony "doesn't look happy working with Barkley and Kenny Smith in the NCAA hoops studio." Anthony "takes the subject matter seriously." Raissman: "Ya think he wonders if his partners share a similar commitment? Smith, at least, comes prepared. Barkley, not so much so" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/20).

OTHER ON-AIR PERSONALITIES: The N.Y. POST's Mushnick noted announcer Marv Albert debuted as a "CBS college basketball play-by-player on Friday." Mushnick: "Marv Albert on CBS? Calling college basketball? Voicing a promo for the Masters? -- quickly seemed as natural as cheese on pizza" (N.Y. POST, 3/20). Mushnick today writes he feels for analyst Len Elmore, "Gus Johnson's Tournament partner." Mushnick: "When Johnson's done with his self-promotional hysterics, what's Elmore to do? Speak his usual calm, clear observations, as if Johnson just badly overdid it? Or get crazy-loud, too, so as not to embarrass Johnson?" (N.Y. POST, 3/21).

Pitino's guest analyst appearance following
loss is met with mixed reviews
PREPARING FOR A SECOND CAREER?
USA TODAY's Michael McCarthy noted Louisville men's basketball coach Rick Pitino served as a "guest analyst Saturday and Sunday," and he sat "dead-center" in the studio during the tournament coverage. Pitino addressed his team's loss to Morehead State on Thursday, and "the way Pitino talked after the Morehead loss, it wouldn't be a big surprise if his next move is into TV." Pitino "could join the many former college coaches behind the microphone, such as" ESPN analysts Bob Knight, Dick Vitale and Digger Phelps (USATODAY.com, 3/19). However, USA TODAY's Hiestand writes Pitino's performance "didn't create much of an audition tape," as he was "pretty stiff" (USA TODAY, 3/21).

COVERAGE AT LARGE: In Boston, Dan Shaughnessy wrote the NCAA Tournament is "one of the more fraudulent, overblown media creations of our time," and ESPN is "making me despise the tourney the same way it made me despise Brett Favre and LeBron James." Shaughnessy: "How many more sycophantic ex-coaches (thanks, Digger and Dickie) can we hear making excuses for every transgression made by current coaches? In the world of television commentary, every coach is pure and never responsible for NCAA violations." Shaughnessy wrote it was "particularly disgusting" to see Pitino "join the CBS crew hours after his team was eliminated" (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/20). The GLOBE & MAIL's Bruce Dowbiggin notes TSN's coverage of the "gripping North Carolina-Washington game was pushed to online by an NHL game and a NASCAR race" that "also clipped the start of Duke-Michigan." Both TSN and TSN2 at times "had games," while "at other times it was just one (while TSN served other masters)." Dowbiggin: "It was mix and match with CBS coverage for frustrated fans" (GLOBE & MAIL, 3/21).

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