Ratings Roundup: NCAA Championship Up Slightly; NBC Sports Net in Ratings Freefall

Last night’s March Madness finale averaged a 12.3 rating and 20.9 million viewers, according to Nielsen fast nationals. The powerhouse matchup between Kentucky and Kansas, in which the Wildcats won 67-59, was up 5% in ratings and 4% in viewership from last year (UConn-Butler: 11.7, 20.055M), but down 13% in both measures compared to 2010 (Duke-Butler: 14.2, 23.944M). The game ranks as the fourth-highest rated and third-most viewed NCAA Tournament title game of the past decade. Overall, Kentucky/Kansas ranks as the seventh-lowest rated title game dating back to 1975, ahead of only 2007 (FLA/OSU: 12.2), 2008 (KU/MEM: 12.1), 2011 (CONN/BUTLER: 11.7), 2006 (FLA/UCLA: 11.2), 2004 (CONN/GT: 11.0), and 2009 (10.8).

Compared to other sports, Monday’s game outdrew four of this year’s five BCS title games, five of the seven games of last year’s World Series, five of the six games of last year’s NBA Finals, and assorted marquee events such as the Daytona 500 (8.0, 13.669M) and the final round of last year’s Masters golf tournament (9.5, 15.257M)…

…As for the pair of Final Four games on Saturday, CBS earned an average fast national household rating/share of 9.0/17, the highest-rated Final Four since 2005 (10.5/19; Illinois-Louisville and North Carolina-Michigan State).  The 9.0/17 is up 1% from last year’s 8.9/17 (Butler-VCU and Connecticut-Kentucky). The first game, Kentucky beating Louisville, earned an average household rating/share of 8.4/17.  The 8.4/17 rating is up 1% from last year’s 8.3/17 (Butler-VCU). The second game featuring Kansas’ victory over Ohio State delivered a 9.6/17, up 1% from last year’s 9.5/17 (Connecticut-Kentucky).  The 9.6/17 is the best rating in the window since a 10.9/19 in 2005 (North Carolina-Michigan State)…

…The newly rebranded NBC Sports Network has not only struggled to gain a ratings foothold during the first quarter of 2012, it has actually regressed. In the first three months of the year, ratings plunged 22% — the biggest drop in eight years — after Versus was relaunched under a the NBC moniker on New Years Day. According to Nielsen, NBCSN averaged 64,000 total daily viewers in the three months ended March 25, down from 82,000 viewers in the same period a year ago. That means it would be the least-watched since the second quarter of 2004, when OLN averaged just 51,000 viewers. The network should benefit from the NHL playoffs in the second quarter, as well as from the Olympic Games in the summer, but the ratings freefall is, nonetheless, concerning to NBC Sports Group…

…On the women’s side, Sunday’s Baylor/Stanford Final Four game drew a 2.2 overnight rating on ESPN, even with Connecticut/Notre Dame last year (2.2), but down 15% from Connecticut/Baylor in 2010 (2.6). Baylor/Stanford finished just shy of ABC’s Bulls/Thunder NBA game earlier in the day (2.3). Earlier in the night, Notre Dame/Connecticut drew a 1.8 overnight, up a tick from both Texas A&M/Stanford last year (1.7), and Stanford/Oklahoma in 2010 (1.7)…

…The NASCAR Sprint Cup Goody’s Fast Relief 500 from Martinsville earned a 3.9 overnight rating on FOX Sunday, even with last year (3.9). Excluding rained out races, the 3.9 overnight is tied as the lowest for the spring Martinsville race over the past ten years. In addition, the 3.9 is the second-lowest of the season for NASCAR on FOX.