Ratings Roundup: Opening Rounds of March Madness Hit 20-Year Viewership High; Streaking Heat Draw Big Audiences for Sun Sports

CBS Sports and Turner Sports’ exclusive live coverage of NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship across TBS, CBS, TNT and truTV combined to deliver the most viewed first week of the NCAA Tournament in 20 years (1993), according to Nielsen Fast Nationals.  The combined coverage averaged 8.9 million total viewers, up 9% over last year’s 8.2 million.   The 2013 NCAA Tournament is averaging a HH rating/share of 5.8/12, up 7% from a 5.4/12 last year, and is the highest average rating for the tournament’s first week in 15 years (5.9/15 in 1995). Third round coverage on Sunday, March 24, averaged 11.1 million total viewers, up 29% from last year’s 8.6 million to become the most watched first Sunday in 15 years. The corresponding average HH rating/share of 7.1/14 is up 27% from last year’s 5.6/11. The 7.1/14 is the highest rating for the first Sunday of the tournament in 13 years (7.2/17 in 2000).

The NCAA First Four on truTV also delivered big numbers, grossing 4.477 million total viewers, an increase of 14 percent over 3,937,000 total viewers for last year’s comparable telecasts. The corresponding 2.9 U.S. HH rating for the four telecasts this year is up 12 percent over a 2.6 U.S. HH rating in 2012. However, all four games failed to top Robert Morris’ unlikely upset of Kentucky in the first round of the NIT, which drew 1.6 million viewers on ESPN Tuesday night…

…Sun Sports, the Fox-owned RSN that is the local TV home to the Miami HEAT, has been scoring record ratings during the HEAT’s historic 26-game win streak. 20 of the first 24 games during the streak were televised on Sun Sports. HEAT telecasts during the streak have averaged an impressive 8.9 HH rating in the Miami-Ft. Lauderdale DMA, up 32%  over the team’s season-to-date ratings (6.72). Last Monday’s telecast of Celtics vs. HEAT delivered a 12.2 HH rating, which set a new all-time record (regular season or playoffs) on Sun Sports, beating the previous high-water mark of 11.13 set only a few days earlier on March 10 against the Pacers…

With rain canceling Sunday’s play, NBC missed out on what would surely have been another strong Tiger Woods-fueled overnight. Sunday coverage of the PGA Tour Arnold Palmer Invitational earned a 1.7 overnight rating on NBC, as the final round play was postponed due to weather. The final round of last year’s tournament, which was won by Woods, earned a 4.8 overnight.

The Dominican Republic/Puerto Rico World Baseball Classic championship game on March 19 earned 843,000 viewers on MLB Network, down 50% from the Korea/Japan final on ESPN in 2009 (1.675M). Despite the massive decline, the telecast ranks as the second-most viewed baseball telecast ever on MLB Network outside of the MLB Postseason.

Meanwhile, ESPN Deportes’ Spanish-language coverage of the WBC Championship delivered a 3.2 Hispanic household coverage rating 236,000 Hispanic viewers, marking the network’s most-watched baseball telecast ever (beating the March 12, 2009 WBC game between Mexico and Cuba which delivered 146,000 Hispanic household impressions and an audience of 221,000 viewers). The game is also the network’s highest-rated, most-watched telecast thus far this year.