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Volume 25 No. 6
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Duke, Kentucky Still Top Draws During NCAA Hoops Regular Season

North Carolina-Duke on March 3 was the most-watched game at 3.4 million viewers on ESPN
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

The bluebloods in college basketball still ruled on TV during the regular season. Games involving Duke and Kentucky accounted for eight of the top 10 most-watched games for a season that saw mixed results for the national broadcasters. The second North Carolina-Duke matchup of the regular season on March 3 was the most-watched game at 3.4 million viewers on ESPN, marking the seventh straight season that the Tobacco Road matchup has led all of college hoops. The first matchup in this year’s Duke-UNC series drew 2.5 million viewers on ESPN, which was the seventh-best audience. Duke also had the No. 3 most-viewed game of the season against Virginia on Jan. 27, with CBS drawing 3.0 million viewers. Meanwhile, Kentucky’s top game was against Kansas back on Nov. 14, with ESPN drawing 2.7 million viewers for the early-season matchup. Kentucky also had the No. 8 game (Dec. 23 vs. UCLA), No. 9 game (Jan. 27 vs. West Virginia) and No. 10 game (Feb. 3 vs. Missouri).

NUTS & BOLTS: CBS again led all networks for college hoops’ regular season, averaging 1.7 million viewers for 37 games. That figure was flat compared to last season, but up from two seasons ago. Across ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU, viewership was down 6% this season. ESPN alone averaged 1.04 million viewers for its 127 games, down 13% from last season. ESPN2’s viewership also was down 9% to 328,000 viewers this past season, while ESPNU was flat at 104,000 viewers. Meanwhile, games across Fox and FS1 were up 29% as the networks got an expanded Big Ten slate of games (those games had previously been on ESPN networks). Fox averaged 867,000 viewers for its games, up 16%, while FS1 averaged 144,000 viewers, up 13%. All networks this season had some headwinds from the Pyeongchang Games. Looking at the cable landscape, ESPN networks had the top 156 most-watched games among all networks.

MEN'S COLLEGE BASKETBALL REGULAR-SEASON VIEWERSHIP
NET
'17-18 (000)
'16-17 (000)
'15-16 (000)
'14-15 (000)
'13-14 (000)
CBS
1,700
1,700
1,471
1,642
1,800
ESPN
1,041
1,200
1,232
1,376
1,454
Fox
867
750
639
685
n/a
ESPN2
328
360
362
426
414
FS1
144
128
109
100
94
ESPNU
104
104
118
125
140
MOST-WATCHED COLLEGE HOOPS GAMES FOR '17-18 REGULAR SEASON
RANK
DATE
NET
MATCHUP
VIEWERS (000)
1
3/3/18
ESPN
North Carolina-Duke
3,369
2
1/7/18
CBS
Michigan State-Ohio State
3,305
3
1/27/18
CBS
Virginia-Duke
3,042
4
11/14/17
ESPN
Duke-Michigan State
3,021
5
1/14/18
CBS
Northwestern-Indiana
2,886
6
11/14/17
ESPN
Kentucky-Kansas
2,701
7
2/8/18
ESPN
Duke-North Carolina
2,471
8
12/23/17
CBS
UCLA-Kentucky
2,335
9
1/27/18
ESPN
Kentucky-West Virginia
2,251
10
2/3/18
CBS
Kentucky-Missouri
2,174
Download the
College Hoops Viewership