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Thursday night’s (March 18) First Four coverage of the 2021 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship drew a gross audience of 7.6 million viewers (according to Nielsen Media Research) consuming the games across TBS, truTV, NCAA March Madness Live and TV Everywhere platforms. This marks an all-time high for the preliminary round of four play-in games that precedes the main national tournament.
Viewership for TBS and truTV’s live game coverage is up 36 percent vs. 2019’s comparable telecasts, with an average of 7.3 million viewers based on Nielsen Fast Nationals. Those numbers are projected to increase once Nielsen Out of Home delivery becomes available.
Thursday night’s NCAA First Four game telecasts airing on TBS and truTV generated an increase of 24 percent vs. the previous record audience in 2014. Live game coverage also garnered a double-digit increase among all key demographics (Men & People 18-34, 18-49 & 25-54).
Additional records include UCLA vs. Michigan State on TBS becoming the most-watched First Four game since the format was introduced in 2011, with an average of 3.15 million viewers. The telecast peaked with an average of 3.3 million viewers from 11-11:15 p.m. ET.
Michigan State-UCLA surpassed the previous record of 2.23 million, set by Tennessee-Iowa from 2014. In addition, all previous First Four games aired on truTV; this was the first year they aired on the more widely-distributed TBS.
NCAA March Madness Live also set all-time marks for the NCAA First Four, with significant double-digit increases vs. 2019 in live streams, live hours and spanning all key performance metrics.
NCAA March Madness social accounts posted a 13 percent increase in engagements for First Four content vs. 2019.
Source: Nielsen Media Research, based Live + SD Fast Nationals from 03/18/2021 compared year over year and to historical NCAA First Four comparisons. Cross-Platform adds March Madness Live and Warner Media network TVE streaming Average Minute Audience derived from Conviva. Social based on CrowdTangle, Sprinklr, Facebook Insights, Twitter Analytics.