UPDATE, 2:15 PM: A whole bunch of new games in this year’s 2015 NCAA Tournament have already started today but the final scores for last night’s match-ups are now in. Time zone adjusted and in and out of primetime, it was a 3-pointer for CBS. Unsurprisingly, Cincinnati’s close 1-point win over Purdue leaped up from last year’s game between Wofford and Michigan on the first Thursday of the 2014 tournament. Last night’s 7 – 9:53 PM game pulled in a 1.6/6 rating among adults 18-49 and had a total viewership of 5.514 million on CBS. That’s up 60% in the demo and 45% in overall audience over the first game in primetime on March 20, 2014. The game peaked in the 9:30 PM slot as it got down to the wire for both teams with a 2.8 rating and 8.938 million watching.
After a 14-min bridge between games, Kentucky’s 23-point defeat of Hampton started at 10:07 PM and ran until 12:35 AM on CBS. That game got a 1.8/7 with 5.460 million tuning in. That rout was up 38% among the 18-49s over the Arizona vs. Texas game that was the second primetime game of last year’s first Thursday of the tournament. Total viewershipwise, last night’s Kentucky win beat last year’s second game by 50%. Now these are only CBS numbers and the game were also broadcast on TBS, TruTV and TNT but I stand by what I said earlier – BOOM!
PREVIOUS, 9:05 AM: March Madness hit primetime last night and the 2015 NCAA Tournament certainly brought a fair share of drama for its first Thursday, especially if you were watching the first game of the night. Cincinnati’s 66-65 victory over Purdue was a strong start to the madness as was top-ranked Kentucky’s 79-56 victory over Hampton — even more so if you had picked the former for your bracket. While certain to change as all live events ratings do, preliminary numbers have the 8-11 PM portion of the tournament scoring a 2.0/7 for the network in the key demo. That’s up a slam-dunk 82% rise over last year’s first Thursday’s early ratings. CBS easily won the night among adults 18-49, but Fox took the viewership top spot with 8.405 million.
As we wait for final numbers, the metered market results can provide an indication of where things will end up – and it could be a very good place. Yesterday’s hoops coverage snagged a record-breaking 6.6/14 average. Broadcast across CBS, TNT, TruTV and TBS, that’s up 10% from last year. It’s also the best first Thursday metered-market result since the tournament expanded to being played over four windows for entire day in 1991. The primetime games garnered a 7.8/13 and a 7.1/13 to rise 1% and 15%, respectively, to 25-year highs – BOOM!
As the college basketball battles hit highs, others in primetime stumbled or stayed steady with competition from hoops and spring break. The two-hour American Idol (1.8/6) on Fox and ABC’s Grey Anatomy (2.1/7) were even with last week, though for the latter it matches a series low. The rest of ABC’s night took a tumble with Scandal (2.4/7) and American Crime (1.2/4) down 11% and 14% from their March 12 show. With its Lena Dunham guest appearance last night, that was a season low for the Shonda Rhimes-created D.C.-based drama in preliminary numbers.
On NBC, things were looking up as the second week of Dateline: The Real Blacklist (1.2/4) rose 33% from its debut. Viewershipwise, Dateline’s examination of the Robert Durst case was NBC most-watched hour of regular programming in the 8 PM Thursday slot since October 16, 2008 with 6.38 million tuning in last night. The actual The Blacklist (1.8/5) stayed steady with last week, with a 6% rise among adults 18-49. The real winner of the night for NBC was The Slap (0.7/2). Week 6 of the eight-week limited series saw a 17% leap over the week before.
The CW’s Vampire Diaries (0.7/2) rose 17% too from last week while lead-out Reign (0.4/1) was even with last week.