TBEN saw a 14% drop in viewership for the NCAA Men’s Championship game, while the women’s title game on ESPN increased.


MaCio Teague # 31 of the Baylor Bears rides for a basket against Drew Timme # 2 of the Gonzaga Bulldogs in the 2021 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament National Championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium on April 05, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Andy Lyons | Getty Images

Gonzaga’s luck in history was crushed in the 2021 National Collegiate Athletic Association men’s basketball tournament, as the Bulldogs lost their first game of the season to the Baylor Bears and the viewer suffered.

The 2021 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship game averaged 16.9 million viewers on TBEN Sports on Monday, a 14% drop from the 2019 game. The 2020 competition has been canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Baylor prevented Gonzaga from going undefeated, beating the Bulldogs, 86-70. A win would have capped a perfect season for Gonzaga, and the first time a men’s program has gone undefeated since the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers.

This year’s game was the least-watched championship ever to air on TBEN since the network started broadcasting the games in 1982. It is also the lowest since WarnerMedia-owned Turner Sports aired the game in 2018 (TBEN and Turner started changing every two years in 2016). This game, between Villanova and the University of Michigan, drew an estimated 16.5 million viewers.

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TBEN had around 19 million viewers for the championship game between Virginia and Texas Tech in 2019. That was a drop from the 2017 game it hosted with the University of North Carolina and Gonzaga, which drew about 22 million.

For the men’s 2021 Final Four games, an average of 14.9 million viewers watched ringing batsman Gonzaga-UCLA in overtime on Saturday, and that game peaked at 18.8 million viewers. Baylor’s win over Houston drew 8.1 million viewers, a 37% drop from the first semi-final of 2019.

Last month, John Bogusz, executive vice president of sports sales and marketing for TBEN Network, acknowledged the decline in NCAA audiences during the pandemic. He mentioned that the network has set aside additional advertising inventory for marketers if the network fails to meet audience targets.

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“We’ll wait and see how the games perform, but we’ve set aside some inventory to take care of our advertisers if needed,” Bogusz said.

Lexie Hull # 12 of the Stanford Cardinal blocks Aari McDonald # 2 of the Arizona Wildcats’ shot in the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament Championship game at Alamodome on April 4, 2021 in San Antonio, Texas.

Ben Solomon | NCAA Pictures | Getty Images

Increased number of views for the female game

ESPN, owned by Disney, hosted the women’s tournament held in San Antonio. On Tuesday, he said the Arizona-Stanford title game averaged 4 million viewers on Sunday, peaking at 5.9 million. The network said it was the most watched women’s contest since 2014.

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Stanford defeated the Wildcats, 54-53, to win their first NCAA women’s basketball title since 1992.

The network also reported solid numbers around semi-final games. Stanford’s victory over South Carolina averaged 1.6 million viewers, while the University of Connecticut’s loss to Arizona drew 2.6 million viewers, up 24% from to the second semi-final of 2019. Overall, the two games combined to average 2.8 million viewers

Disney has placed six matches of the Women’s Tournament on its TBEN network, marking the first time that a broadcast network has broadcast matches of the Women’s Tournament since 1995, when TBEN broadcast some contests.

The Iowa vs. Connecticut contest on March 27 was the highest rated of the games, with 1.5 million viewers, followed by the Michigan Baylor game (1.2 million). The network said the Sweet 16 contests aired on TBEN, ESPN and ESPN2 averaged 918,000 viewers, a 67% increase from 2019.



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