TV ratings: Men’s college basketball championship wins the week despite ratings drop

Jordan Hawkins shoots against San Diego State during the men's national championship college basketball game.
Connecticut guard Jordan Hawkins shoots against San Diego State during the second half of the men’s national championship college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament on April 3 in Houston.
(David J. Phillip / Associated Press)

The NCAA men’s basketball final drew record-low viewership but still had the biggest audience for a professional or college basketball game since last year’s college championship.

CBS’ coverage of Connecticut’s 76-59 victory over San Diego State averaged 14.69 million viewers, according to live-plus-same-day figures released by Nielsen on Tuesday. The previous low was a combined 16.5 million for Villanova’s 79-62 victory over Michigan in the 2018 final on TBS, TNT and truTV. Records date back to 1975.

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


The top-ranked non-sports prime-time program between April 3 and Sunday was “60 Minutes,” which averaged 7.57 million viewers, second for the week. The CBS news magazine followed a 48-minute runover of the network’s coverage of golf’s Masters Tournament in the Eastern and Central time zones.

CBS had eight of the week’s 11 highest-ranked programs to finish first for the fourth consecutive week, averaging 5.61 million viewers.

The only times CBS has not finished first in the last 11 weeks were the weeks of Feb. 6-13, when Fox aired Super Bowl LVII, and March 6-12, when ABC aired the Oscars.

NBC was second for the fourth consecutive week, averaging 3.4 million viewers. “Chicago Fire” was its ratings leader for the third consecutive week, averaging 6.77 million viewers to finish third after back-to-back fifth-place finishes.

ABC was third among the broadcast networks for the fourth consecutive week, averaging 2.85 million viewers. “American Idol” was ABC’s top program for the seventh time in the eight weeks it has aired this season, with the Sunday edition averaging 4.58 million viewers to finish 17th. The only interruption to the streak was the week that ABC aired the Oscars.

Fox averaged 2.23 million viewers. “The Masked Singer” topped its ratings for the second consecutive week, finishing 26th, averaging 3.69 million viewers.


The CW averaged 380,000 viewers. The superhero drama “Superman & Lois” was its biggest draw for the third time in the four weeks it has aired this season, averaging 703,000 viewers, 139th among broadcast programs. Its overall ranking was not available.

The 20 prime-time programs consisted of the NCAA men’s basketball final and pregame show; six CBS scripted programs, its news magazine “60 Minutes,” the two-hour special “A Grammy Salute to the Beach Boys,” that followed “60 Minutes” and the alternative series “Survivor”; five NBC scripted programs and the Monday edition of its singing competition “The Voice”; the April 4 edition of the Fox News Channel political talk show “Tucker Carlson Tonight”; and the two editions of the ABC singing competition, “American Idol.”

“Tucker Carlson Tonight” accounted for five of the top six prime-time cable programs, topped by last Tuesday’s edition, coinciding with the date former President Donald Trump pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts of falsification of business records, and averaged 6.46 million viewers, sixth for the week.

Fox News Channel won the cable network race for the second consecutive week and 10th time in 11 weeks, averaging 2.3 million viewers. MSNBC was second, averaging 1.45 million and HGTV third, averaging 885,000.

The cable prime-time top 20 consisted of 11 Fox News Channel weeknight political talk shows (five broadcasts each of “Tucker Carlson Tonight” and “Hannity” and one of “The Ingraham Angle”); three special reports on Trump’s court appearance — two on MSNBC and one on CNN; two MSNBC weeknight political talk shows (the April 3 edition of “The Rachel Maddow Show” and the Tuesday edition of “The Last Word With Lawrence O’Donnell”); History’s “The Curse of Oak Island”; and all three hourlong segments of the USA Network professional wrestling show “WWE Raw.”

“The Night Agent” was Netflix’s most-streamed title for the third consecutive week, with viewers watching the 10-episode action thriller for 130.48 million hours in the second full week it was available, increasing its total since release to 515.57 million hours, ninth on the all-time list, which is based on viewership during the first 28 days of release.


“Murder Mystery 2” was Netflix’s most popular movie for the second consecutive week, with viewers spending 59.84 million hours watching the Adam Sandler-Jennifer Aniston-starring action-mystery-comedy in the first full week it was available. Viewership was down 7.4% from the 64.62 million hours the previous week when it was available for three days.