National Championship Game Ratings Suggest People Complaining About Late Tip-Off Kept Watching

Kyle Koster

Monday night’s NCAA national championship game was a ratings hit for CBS, earning a 14.5 rating and a 24 share. It was the third-most watched final since 2005 and up 21 percent from last year.

This comes on the heels of Saturday’s Final Four, which was up 37 percent from last year and is the culmination of three consecutive weekends of ratings wins (up 13 percent overall). The reasons for the success are varied, ranging from the deeply political (post-election fatigue) to the obvious (college basketball is great).

What’s clear is that the NCAA Tournament, and the way it’s televised, is a finely tuned machine. A compelling event got even better when viewers were given the opportunity to watch every game, and, at some times, flipping between four channels to catch the action.

In short, CBS/Turner Sports know what they’re doing. Nothing proves that more than the fact that peak viewership came between 11:30-11:45 p.m. EST, during crunch time. This seems to torpedo the tired argument that the national championship game should start before 9:20 p.m. People aren’t going to bed. They are staying up and tuning in when the game’s on the line.

Waiting until the West Coast 9-5 crowd gets home from work to tip off is a no-brainer, especially when a team from that region is involved.

Here are the top five rated metered markets for last night’s game:

  1. Raleigh-Durham – 33.8/52
  2. Greensboro-High Point-Winston Salem – 31.7/47
  3. Charlotte – 30.1/46
  4. Seattle-Tacoma – 24.5/43
  5. Louisville – 23.5/38

The tip time isn’t changing anytime soon. And it’s been after 9 p.m. for a long time. Why? Because it works. It’s no accident. A few thousand pithy Twitter comments aren’t going to lead to any change, not when the ratings proof is in the pudding.