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March Madness: Sweet 16 Thursday Sets New Records

Notre Dame's return to the Elite Eight for the first time since 1979, a pair of tight contests, and Kentucky's demolition of West Virginia were the tickets to the best ever Sweet 16 Thursday with the Nielsens under the current format.

CBS and TBS's March 26 coverage of the 2015 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship averaged a 9.1 overnight rating and 16 share, based on Nielsen metered market data. That was the best-ever performance for the opening night of the Sweet 16 round, since the tourney established its current TV format in 1991.  Moreover, the delivery jumped 30% from the 7.0/13 for the corresponding night during the 2014 version of March Madness.

Thursday dunked record ratings in both telecast windows.  TBS and CBS posted up a 9.3/17 overnight rating/share from 7 p.m.-10 p.m. (ET), the highest rating for the game window since 1991 and a 39% increase over last year. CBS featured Notre Dame's 81-70 win over Wichita State (pictured)  therein, while TBS presented Wisconsin rallying to beat North Carolina, 79-72.

From 9:45 p.m.-12:45 a.m., the network teammates averaged an 8.9/16, matching 1992 and 1993 as the highest rating for the game window since 1991 and up 20% versus 2014. The nightcaps showcased Kentucky's 78-39 crushing of WVU on CBS and Arizona pulling past Xavier 68-60, down the stretch, on the cable service.

To date, the tournament  across TBS, CBS, TNT and truTV has averaged a 7.0/15,  its best showing through Thursday’s regional semifinals in the current TV format, and 9% higher than in 2014.

Digitally, NCAA March Madness Live has also delivered a record-setting 59 million live video streams through Thursday, a 10% increase over last year. The platform has generated 12.5 million live hours of video consumption through the second Thursday of the tournament, an all-time best and 11% amelioration through the same period a year ago.  Thursday’s Sweet 16 coverage led to a 59% increase among live video streams and a 53% spike in live hours of video consumption over the comparable period in 2014. 

Socially, the tourney has also been a winner, grossing a record 134 million total social impressions across Facebook and Twitter through the second Thursday, That represents a 46% leap over 2014's level.