NCAA gets brutal news about March Madness national title game
The NCAA was dealt a brutal blow after the overnight ratings came in for the biggest game of the college basketball season.
Villanova’s 79-62 win over Michigan — giving the Wildcats their second title in three years — should have been the birth of a dynastic program and a high mark for NCAA basketball.
Instead, the NCAA was met with resounding indifference for the big game.
Monday night’s matchup between Villanova and Michigan was the lowest-rated college basketball championship game ever, per Sports Media Watch.
The Villanova-Michigan tilt drew a 10.3 overnight rating. That’s nearly a third less than last year’s North Carolina-Gonzaga game, which drew a 14.5 rating, and 14 percent less than the 12.0 the North Carolina-Villanova championship game from two seasons ago garnered.
When dealing with millions of viewers, drops of 29 percent and 14 percent are not insignificant.
Austin Karp of SportsBusiness Daily put into perspective the implications of a 10.3 rating.
Villanova's blowout win over Michigan delivered a 10.3 overnight rating across TBS/TNT/truTV. New low for an NCAA men's title game. Still won the night across ALL OF TV. Rating peaked 10pm ET (11.5), then got down to 7.0 in final 15 minutes. Detroit led markets with 21.4 rating
— Austin Karp (@AustinKarp) April 3, 2018
If there is a silver lining for the NCAA, it’s that the lowest-rated championship game ever still bested anything else on television Monday night.
There are numerous contributing factors to the dismal overnight rating.
First, the most commonly repeated complaint from social media users seems to be the late East Coast start time for the game.
A 9:20 p.m. ET start time meant that many fans simply weren’t going to be awake for the entire contest.
Which brings up the other big problem the NCAA had — the game was over fairly early in the second half of the game. It was readily apparent to any college sports fan that the Wolverines just didn’t have the scoring punch to keep up with Villanova and that their tenacious toughness had been ground down over the course of Michigan’s 14-game win streak leading to the big game. It wasn’t just happenstance that the Wildcats’ seven-point halftime lead quickly doubled in a matter of minutes.
Of note, the NCAA’s ratings issues seem different enough from other sports leagues. The NFL’s stark ratings decline in 2017 had as much to do with off-field politics as anything on the field. MLB has been restructuring its strategies to reach younger audiences and has enjoyed some stellar World Series ratings in recent years. The NBA has seen steadily increasing in ratings after targeting younger audiences years ago.
For comparison, the 10.3 that Villanova-Michigan drew was lower than the college football national championship game between Alabama and Georgia (16.7 rating) and any NBA Finals game in more than three years, and it was barely higher than the 10.1 that Duke-Kansas drew in the regional final just this year.
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