The Madness Behind the March Media

How sweet it must feel to be a fan of Fairleigh Dickinson or Princeton! The 16-seed Knights & 15-seed Tigers provided a ton of excitement last weekend defeating two of the favorites to win the entire tournament – 1-seed Purdue Boilermakers and 2-seed Arizona Wildcats. Well, if you ask those that selected Purdue or Arizona to win the tournament, like myself, you may not have thought it was so thrilling! Either way, it was safe to say that the madness did not disappoint.

When evaluating March Madness from a media perspective, it’s interesting to analyze year-over-year trends especially with video consumption constantly evolving. However, what I find even more compelling is the difference in viewership when comparing games over the course of the same weekend – First vs. Second round, Sweet 16 vs. Elite 8, and Final 4 vs. Championship. See below for the Top 10 most-watched games from the opening weekend of the tournament.

There are a few things to consider when evaluating this list –

  1. Day of week – First round games are played on Thursday and Friday, while Second round games are Saturday and Sunday
    1. 7 of the top 10 games were played on Saturday or Sunday
    2. Top Thursday/Friday games included the Fairleigh Dickinson-Purdue upset and the first two games played on each day
  2. Matchup – games that include the most popular teams, such as Michigan State, Kansas, Kentucky and Duke, tend to draw the most viewers
  3. Madness! Games that feature potential upsets will draw large viewership numbers over the course of the game
    1. The top 2 games from the opening weekend included 1-and-2 seeds losing
  4. Network – Broadcast viewership is far-and-beyond ahead of Cable (no surprise here)
    1. 9 out of the top 10 games aired on CBS

When strategizing media plans around the NCAA tournament, you can certainly think about day of week and network depending on flexibility in budget, as games that air on CBS come at a higher cost than TBS, TNT or TruTV.  However, some things are out of your control, such as matchup or potential upsets, which plays even more into the March Madness!

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