Kansas Jayhawks win Nielsen ratings while winning NCAA men’s basketball championship

A basketball player takes a jump shot
Kansas forward David McCormack (33) shoots against North Carolina in the finals of the NCAA Men’s basketball tournament.
(Brynn Anderson / Associated Press)

The NCAA men’s basketball tournament championship game accomplished the rare feat of drawing more viewers than when it last aired on cable. The TBS, TNT and TruTV simulcast of Kansas’ 72-69 victory over North Carolina on April 4 was the most-watched prime-time cable or broadcast program in the week ending Sunday, averaging 17.052 million viewers, according to live-plus-same-day figures Nielsen released Tuesday.

Viewership was 6.4% more than the 16.029 million for the 2018 championship game, Villanova’s 79-62 victory over Michigan on the same three networks. The game annually alternates between CBS and Turner Sports. The tournament was not played in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Viewership for nearly all forms of programming have decreased in recent years as the growth of streaming services increase viewers’ choices.

The audience was the second-largest for a prime-time program since NBC’s post-Super Bowl Winter Olympics coverage Feb. 13 averaged 21.277 million viewers, trailing North Carolina’s 81-77 victory over Duke on April 2 in the final game of Mike Krzyzewski’s 42-season career as the Blue Devils’ coach, which averaged 17.663 million viewers on TBS, TNT and TruTV.

CBS won the network race for the seventh time in the seven weeks following the conclusion of NBC’s coverage of the Winter Olympics and 13th time in the 29-week-old 2021-22 television season, averaging 4.18 million viewers for its prime-time programming.


CBS had seven of the week’s 13 top-rated programs, led by “60 Minutes,” which finished second for the week, averaging 9.272 million viewers for an edition featuring a two-part report and extensive interview with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The newsmagazine drew its largest audience since Jan. 16, when it averaged 11.291 million viewers following a wild-card round NFL playoff game. Sunday’s edition began 21 minutes later than usual in the Eastern and Central time zones, where the bulk of the nation’s population lives, because of the runover of the coverage of the final round of the Masters Tournament.

ABC was second for the seventh consecutive week, averaging 3.59 million viewers. Like the previous week, its most popular programs were the Monday and Sunday editions of “American Idol,” eighth and 10th for the week, averaging 5.597 million and 5.312 million viewers.

NBC was third, averaging 3.03 million viewers. Its three “Chicago” series topped its rankings with “Chicago Fire” third, averaging 7.395 million, “Chicago Med” fifth, averaging 6.605 million, and “Chicago P.D.” seventh, averaging 5.709 million.

Fox averaged 1.74 million viewers, topped by “The Masked Singer,” 20th, averaging 3.972 million viewers.

The CW averaged 390,000 viewers. The crime drama “Walker” was its biggest draw for the ninth time in its 13 episodes this season, averaging 905,000 viewers, 126th among broadcast programs. Its overall rank was not available.

The only premiere on the five major English-language broadcast networks, the CW comedy panel show “Would I Lie to You?” was 205th among broadcast programs, averaging 435,000 viewers.

The top 20 prime-time programs consisted of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament championship game, eight CBS programs — six scripted programs, “60 Minutes” and the alternative series “Survivor”; five NBC scripted programs; five ABC programs — three alternative programs and two scripted; and Fox’s “The Masked Singer.”

Fox News Channel was the highest-rated cable network for the second consecutive week and 11th in the last 12, averaging 2.324 million viewers. TBS was second, averaging 1.522 million, and TNT third, averaging 1.2 million.

The cable top 20 consisted of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament championship game and its pregame show; 13 Fox News Channel political talk shows — five broadcasts each of “Tucker Carlson Tonight” and “Hannity” and three of “The Ingraham Angle”; History’s “The Curse of Oak Island”; the 8-9 p.m. segment of USA Network’s “WWE Raw”; the Hallmark Channel period drama “When Calls The Heart”; the TLC series “90 Day Fiancé: Before the 90 Days”; and ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball” game between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees.

The second season of “Bridgerton” was Netflix’s most-streamed program for the third time in its three weeks of release, with viewers spending 115.75 million hours watching its eight episodes, one week after the steamy alternate history period drama set a record for the most-viewed title on the English-language television list with 251.74 million hours, according to figures released by the streaming service.