The championship game in the NCAA men’s tournament drew the largest audience for a basketball game since the concluding game of the 2019 NBA Finals, despite Baylor leading from the instant it scored the game’s first points, according to live-plus-same-day figures released Tuesday by Nielsen.
CBS’ coverage of the Bears’ 86-70 victory over previously undefeated Gonzaga April 5 averaged 16.922 million viewers, the most for a basketball game since the Toronto Raptors’ series-clinching 114-110 victory over the Golden State Warriors on June 13, 2019 averaged 18.763 million viewers on ABC.
None of the six games of the 2020 NBA Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat, which was also carried by ABC, averaged more than 8.89 million viewers, facing unprecedented competition from NFL regular-season games and MLB postseason games from Sept. 30-Oct. 11.
However, the audience was the lowest for an NCAA championship game televised by CBS. The previous low was 17.088 million for Connecticut’s 82-73 victory over Georgia Tech in 2004.
Viewership was down 14.2% from the 19.723-million average for the last championship game, Virginia’s 85-77 overtime victory over Texas Tech on CBS in 2019.
Viewership for nearly all forms of programming have dropped in recent years because of increased competition from streaming programs, including viewers watching streamed versions of programs simultaneously airing on traditional television.
CBS annually televised the championship game from 1982-2015. It has alternated between CBS and TBS since 2016. The tournament was not played in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
CBS had each of the five most-watched prime-time programs between April 5-11. “NCIS” was the week’s most-watched entertainment program, finishing second, averaging 10.261 million viewers, its most since its season premiere Nov. 17 averaged 10.394 million.
“FBI,” which followed “NCIS,” was fourth for the week, averaging 8.072 million viewers.
“60 Minutes” was third for the week, averaging 8.738 million viewers. It followed a 25-minute runover of CBS’ afternoon coverage of the final round of the Masters golf tournament into prime time that averaged 11.47 million viewers.
The runover is not considered a separate program but is included in the weekly network average.
CBS also had the week’s most-watched comedy “Young Sheldon,” fifth overall, averaging 6.949 million viewers.
The ABC legal drama “Rebel” was the most-watched of the week’s three series premieres on the five major English-language networks, averaging 3.647 million viewers, 31st for the week, second in its 10 p.m. Thursday time slot and sixth among the week’s programs beginning at 10 p.m.
The premiere of the ABC comedy “Home Economics” averaged 3.107 million viewers, 42nd for the week and third in its 8:30-9 p.m. time slot Wednesday. It retained 92.3% of the audience of “The Goldbergs” that preceded it.
(“The Goldbergs” averaged 3.367 million viewers, 37th for the week.)
The premiere of the martial arts action-adventure series “Kung Fu” was The CW’s most-watched program of the week, averaging 1.399 million viewers, 81st among broadcast programs. Its overall rank was not available.
CBS finished first in the network race for the 12th consecutive week and 14th time in the 29-week-old 2020-21 prime-time television season, averaging 5.94 million viewers.
NBC edged ABC, 3.46 million-3.45 million to finish second after back-to-back second-place finishes. Fox was fourth for the 11th consecutive week, averaging 1.83 million viewers for its 15 hours of programming.
The CW again was fifth among the five major English-language broadcast networks, averaging 720,000 viewers for its 12 hours.
CBS, NBC and ABC each aired 22 hours of prime-time programming.
NBC’s “Chicago Med” was the most-watched non-CBS program, averaging 6.876 million viewers to finish sixth. “Chicago Fire,” which followed, was seventh, averaging 6.647 million.
The Sunday edition of “American Idol” was ABC’s most-watched program for the third consecutive week, averaging 6.09 million viewers, 11th for the week.
Fox’s most-watched program for the fourth consecutive week was “The Masked Singer,” 22nd for the week, averaging 4.783 million viewers.
The most-watched prime-time cable program was the Monday edition of the Fox News Channel political talk show “Tucker Carlson Tonight” which averaged 3.139 million viewers, 41st overall.
“Tucker Carlson Tonight” accounted for five of the week’s six most-watched prime-time programs. The other was the Wednesday edition of the MSNBC news and opinion program “The Rachel Maddow Show,” second among cable programs and 45th overall, averaging 3.079 million viewers.
Fox News Channel was the most-watched cable network in prime time for the second consecutive week and 10th of the past 11, averaging 2.124 million viewers. MSNBC averaged 1.592 million viewers to finish second after three consecutive third-place finishes during the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
HGTV was third, averaging 1.213 million viewers and CNN fourth, averaging 1.002 million viewers.
The most-watched Spanish-language program was “Mira quién baila,” Univision’s version of “Dancing with the Stars,” which averaged 1.537 million viewers, 66th among broadcast programs. Its overall rank was not available.
Univision was the most-watched Spanish-language network for the 71st consecutive week and 73rd time in 74 weeks, averaging 1.3 million viewers. Telemundo was second, averaging 1.05 million viewers, followed by UniMas (580,000), Estrella TV (140,000) and Azteca America (50,000).
ABC’s “World News Tonight with David Muir” was the most-watched network nightly newscast for the 71st consecutive week, the 122nd time in 123 weeks and the 174th time in 176 weeks, averaging 8.175 million viewers.
“NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt” was second, averaging 6.597 million viewers, followed by the “CBS Evening News with Norah O’Donnell,” which averaged 4.928 million viewers.
The week’s 10 most-watched prime-time programs were CBS’ coverage of the Baylor-Gonzaga NCAA men’s basketball tournament national championship; “NCIS,” “60 Minutes”; “FBI” and “Young Sheldon”; NBC’s “Chicago Med” and “Chicago Fire”; and CBS’ “FBI: Most Wanted,” ” Blue Bloods” and the 50-minute national championship pregame show.