Butler and Connecticut will battle in the national championship game Monday night, as their Final Four victories averaged 15.4 million viewers on Saturday, according to Nielsen Fast Nationals data.
CBS's April 2 coverage of the Final Four -- Butler topped fellow mid-major VCU 70-62, followed by UConn's 56-55 win over Kentucky -- averaged an 8.9 household rating/17 share. That matched Black Rock's delivery during the 2010 event, which featured Butler beating Michigan State and Duke defeating West Virginia. The last two years rank as the highest-rated Final Four since 2005.
The 15.4 million audience average for the Final Four on Saturday was the most since the 16.6 million for the 2005 matchups in which Illinois prevailed over Louisville and North Carolina advanced over Michigan State.
With the Butler-VCU opener, CBS scored an 8.3 rating/17 share and 14.2 million, the second-highest viewer average for the First Final Four game since 14.5 million tuned in Florida's win over George Mason in 2006.
The UConn-Kentucky nightcap netted a 9.5 rating and 17 share, the best in this window since a 10.9 for North Carolina-Michigan State in 2005. The April 2 telecast from Reliant Stadium averaged 16.7 million viewers, the most for a second Final Four game since the aforementioned matchup in 2005, which scored with 17.5 million.
"We are very pleased that this year's Final Four ratings matched last year's strong numbers which were the best in five years," said Mike Aresco, executive vice president, programming of CBS Sports in a statement. "We are excited about the Championship game which features two of the most remarkable stories of the season in Connecticut and Butler."
CBS and Turner Sports's exclusive live coverage of the 2011 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship, including the inaugural First Four, has averaged a 6.2 rating and 13 share, across CBS, TBS, TNT and TruTV. That's up 9% from a 5.7/13 for CBS alone last year and the best for the tourney through the Final Four since a 6.6/14 in 2005, according to Nielsen data.
Overall, the tournament averaged 9.9 million watchers, a 10% gain from the 9.0 million total viewers for CBS's 2010 coverage, and the best since 10.2 million in 2005.
"We are thrilled at the continued success of the tournament on our combined networks and
look forward to what should be a terrific culmination of our joint coverage with Monday's championship game between Butler and UConn on CBS," noted Turner Sports COO and executive vice president Lenny Daniels.
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