Even an NCAA championship matchup between two opponents widely acknowledged as the best men’s college basketball teams in the country wasn’t enough to set the television world afire.
An estimated 16.92 million people tuned into CBS to watch Baylor University win the national championship title by routing previously unbeaten Gonzaga University on Monday, the Nielsen company said.
That’s down nearly 14% from the 2019 title game between Virginia and Texas Tech. Last year’s NCAA basketball tourney was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
TV viewership declines are hardly unusual in today’s world. Awards show ratings have been cratering. Given that this year’s NCAA football championship saw its ratings plummet 27% percent, the basketball ratings weren’t half bad.
This was the first men’s Final Four with no teams from the Eastern time zone, where nearly half of the country’s television viewers are located.
Saturday’s men’s semifinal game—already considered a classic—in which Gonzaga beat UCLA in overtime on a last-second shot, was seen live by just under 15 million people.
Ratings for the entire tournament were off 13 percent from two years ago, averaging 3.82 million viewers each for 66 games on CBS, TNT, TBS and TruTV.
On Sunday, the women’s NCAA championship, in which Stanford edged Arizona, was seen by 4.08 million people, Nielsen said. ESPN, which broadcast the game, said it was the most-watched women’s title contest since 2014.