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NCAA tournament gives TBS the edge among cable networks in TV ratings

UCLA forward Cody Riley dunks on Alabama forward Alex Reese.
UCLA’s Cody Riley scores against Alabama on Sunday, the highest-rated program on cable for the week.
(Associated Press)

With coverage of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament accounting for each of the five top-ranked prime-time cable programs, TBS ended Fox News Channel’s eight-week streak of finishing first among cable networks.

TBS averaged 2.75 million viewers for its prime-time programming between March 22 and Sunday, 46.1% more than its 1.88-million average the previous week when it finished second, according to live-plus-same-day figures released Tuesday by Nielsen.

UCLA’s 88-78 overtime upset of Alabama Sunday was the week’s highest-rated cable program, averaging 6.51 million viewers, fourth overall.

Fox News Channel was second, averaging 2.33 million viewers, 4.3% more than its 2.23-million average the previous week when it finished first. MSNBC finished third for the second consecutive week after seven consecutive second-place finishes, averaging 1.58 million viewers, 4.5% less than its 1.65-million average the previous week.

The cable Top 20 consisted of four NCAA tournament games and a between games show on TBS; 10 programs on Fox News Channel; four broadcasts of “The Rachel Maddow Show” on MSNBC; and the History Channel’s long-running chronicle of the quest to solve the more than 2-century-old Canadian treasure mystery “The Curse of Oak Island.”

Eleventh-seeded UCLA’s March Madness run continued Sunday with an 88-78 overtime win over No. 2 Alabama in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.

“60 Minutes” had the week’s biggest audience for the fourth time in the 27-week-old 2020-21 prime-time television season, averaging 9.18 million viewers, 16.3% more than its 7.89-million average the previous week.

The CBS News magazine followed a 14-minute runover of the network’s coverage of the Michigan-Florida State NCAA Tournament game that averaged 9.59 million viewers.

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“The Equalizer,” which followed “60 Minutes,” and the NBC singing competition “The Voice” were the week’s other only prime-time programs to average more than 7 million viewers, averaging 7.40 million viewers and 7.06 million viewers.

CBS finished first in the network race for the 10th consecutive week and 12th time in the season, averaging 4.52 million viewers, despite not airing original episodes of its entertainment series “NCIS” and “FBI,” which typically have second and third biggest audiences each week this season.

ABC was second after back-to-back third-place finishes, averaging 3.64 million viewers. NBC was third after back-to-back second-place finishes, averaging 2.9 million viewers.

Fox was fourth for the ninth consecutive week, averaging 1.96 million viewers The CW again was fifth among the five major English-language broadcast networks, averaging 610,000.

The Sunday edition of “American Idol” was ABC’s top-rated program and sixth overall, averaging 6.17 million viewers. Fox’s highest-ranked program for the second consecutive week was “The Masked Singer,” 15th for the week averaging 5.21 million viewers.

For the third time in the five weeks it has aired, the superhero drama “Superman & Lois” was the CW’s ratings winner, averaging 1.24 million viewers, 101st among broadcast programs.

“Ginny & Georgia” topped Nielsen’s latest weekly report on streaming viewership, with viewers watching 953 million minutes of the 10-episode Netflix dramedy in its five days of release between Feb. 22-28. Viewership was down 16.6% from the 1.078 billion minutes watched between Feb. 15-21.

The only other program making its debut in the top 10 was Netflix’s six-episode psychological thriller “Behind Her Eyes,” which was seventh for the week with 577 million minutes watched in its first five days of release.

For the fourth consecutive week “WandaVision” was the lone non-Netflix program in the top 10, rising three spots to sixth with 732 million minutes watched, 1.7% more than the 720 million minutes watched the previous week.


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