Wildcat Run Good News for Turner, CBS

It’s time for the nation’s annual bout of March Madness and “bracketeering.” By the time you read this, the 68-team field for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship will be set, and the national sports conversation will center on whether the Kentucky Wildcats can become the first men’s team since the 1975-76 Indiana Hoosiers to go undefeated. In the fifth of their 14-year, $10.8 billion media rights partnership, CBS Sports and Turner Sports will once again cover all 68 games on traditional TV and via streaming platform “NCAA March Madness Live.” Here, are some key media metrics to ponder before one team cuts down the nets at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on April 6.

Ratings Rundown

While UConn’s 60-54 win over Kentucky in the 2014 title tilt didn’t register as highly as Louisville’s triumph over Michigan the prior year, CBS and Turner netted the second-best average viewership for the tourney since 2005. CBS, TBS, TNT and truTV combined to average a 6.5 U.S. household rating and 10.5 million viewers per window, per Nielsen data. That was down 3% from the 6.7 rating and off 2% from the 10.7 million watchers from the 2013 event.

Turner’s first regional finals and Final Four coverage resulted in the four mostwatched college basketball telecasts in cable history, topped by the Final Four matchups. UConn-Florida netted a 6.9 rating (8.2 cable mark) and 11.7 million watchers; Kentucky’s last-second win over Wisconsin generated a 9.2 (11.0 cable) and 16.3 million watchers across the main TBS feed plus “teamcasts” on TNT and truTV. Ads were sold across all three telecasts. .

All told, the 2014 Final Four averaged 14 million viewers, an 11% decline from 2013, when the matchups aired on CBS.

Madison Avenue Madness

Ad spending on the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Championship touched $1.15 billion for the 2104 tourney, a 1.5% uptick from the 2013 version of March Madness, according to estimates from Kantar Media.

That should expand significantly with this year’s tournament. CBS executive VP, sports sales and marketing John Bogusz said on March 10 at NCAA Media Day in New York that the efforts of the broadcast network and Turner’s sales team will yield a double-digit rise in ad revenue for this year’s event. Bogusz said inventory remained throughout the different stages of the tourney — reports put the sell-through at 95% —but he dismissed the notion that “Kentucky premium units” were being held in reserve as the Wildcats continue their pursuit of perfection. Unit pricing for the April 6 championship game has pushed past the $1.5 million mark.

NCAA March Madness Live Tips Off New Features

Turner Sports, CBS Sports and the NCAA have tipped off an enhanced version of streaming platform NCAA March Madness Live as they look to eclipse last year’s record performance.

The redesigned app showcases a sleeker design, improved navigation, a greater emphasis on social media, an all-new GameCenter experience and a new “run” game. New sections will also focus on providing fans with more content on the tournament and this year’s 68 combatants than ever before.

Hania Poole, senior director, product management and operations at March Madness Live, said the 2015 version of the streaming platform is geared toward being “much more of a companion experience.” The enhanced NCAA March Madness Live more easily melds live game streaming with archival video, tournament-field-tied rankings and statistics, plus social networking elements, Poole said.

As has been the case, the CBS contests are available for anyone to stream. However, authentication is required for the games airing on TNT, TBS and truTV.

To click through to March Madness Live, visit multichannel.com/March16.