Just How Much of a Slam Dunk Has March Madness Been on Live TV?

Tyger Campbell #10 of the UCLA Bruins celebrates with Jaime Jaquez Jr. #4 after defeating the Michigan Wolverines 51-49 in the Elite Eight round game of the 2021 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 30, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana.
(Image credit: Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

After the cancellation of last year’s March Madness due to the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s highly anticipated tournament has been delivering plenty of excitement to college basketball fans across the country — and audiences have been tuning into the games more than anything else on live TV.

Per Inscape, of all the live, linear minutes watched on Vizio smart TVs from March 18-30, 6.94% of the time was spent with the NCAA men’s basketball tournament games, putting March Madness in first place for overall watch-time during that date range. The women’s tournament captured 0.61% of minutes watched, putting it in ninth place. 

Looking at the stages of the tournament, the first-round games on March 19-20 had the highest percentage of minutes watched (14.61%) compared to the other stages, which makes sense given the high number of games that aired those two days.

Also Read: CBS’ Sean McManus on March Madness: I’m Not Worrying About Ratings Being Down

March Madness watch time

According to Inscape’s analytics, the Midwest has been tuning into March Madness at a higher rate than the coasts. Some of the top local area markets (across the country) so far have included Ft. Smith-Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers, Arkansas; Little Rock-Pine Bluff, Arkansas; Des Moines-Ames, Iowa; Syracuse, NY; and Champaign-Springfield-Decatur, Illinois.

Local area market tune-in for March Madness

The championship game is approaching, so it’s worth looking into where the tournament audience may be found after the final buzzer. Per Inscape, shows (excluding news and sports) watched by March Madness viewers include The Price Is Right, Let’s Make a Deal, The Bold and the Beautiful, The Neighborhood, The Wall, Mecum Auto Auctions, The Misery Index, To Tell the Truth, FBI and Wheel of Fortune.

What else March Madness fans are watching

Inscape also examined viewership crossover for the March Madness audience with other sports. A few highlights:

  • Viewers of all the sports were most likely to also watch football, with the NFL slightly more popular than college football.
  • Of the March Madness viewers, 83% tuned into at least 10 minutes of NFL football since September, 74% have watched some college football and 42% checked out MLB baseball.
  • NFL viewers were more likely to watch college football (60%) and MLB baseball (30%) than the NCAA men’s basketball tournament (28%).

Crossover viewing among other sports for March madness viewers

On the advertising side of things, men’s March Madness games have racked up over 17.5 billion TV ad impressions as of this writing, according to iSpot.tv — which amounts to 3.4% of all TV ad impressions for the month overall. CBS scored the top impression-count (10.9 billion), followed by TBS (4.3 billion) and TNT (1.4 billion). 

Most-seen brands during the tournament, according to iSpot, include AT&T Wireless (798.3 million TV ad impressions), Samsung Mobile (546.7 million), GEICO (499.3 million), Allstate (448.2 million) and Capital One (431.7 million). 

The top March Madness ad by impressions was Samsung’s “Different,” promoting the Galaxy S21, with 299.3 million impressions. Uber Eats also scored with a March Madness-themed spot featuring Leslie Jones (209.1 million impressions), which gave a nod to last year’s canceled tournament. According to an iSpot Ace Metrix survey, 29% of viewers considered the characters (i.e., Leslie Jones, playing two versions of herself) the single best thing about the ad.