HOUSTON (AP) — So much for the unlikely Final Four pairing of Virginia Commonwealth and Butler hurting TV ratings.
Saturday night’s Final Four broadcast on CBS posted an 8.9 rating and a 17 share. That’s tied for the highest since 2005.
Butler’s 70-62 win over Virginia Commonwealth in the first game drew an 8.3 rating and averaged 14.2 million viewers while Connecticut’s 56-55 win over Kentucky in the second game drew a 9.5 rating and pulled in 16.7 million viewers.
CBS Sports executive vice president of programming Mike Aresco pointed to the competitiveness of the two games and Butler’s run to consecutive Final Fours as proof the product on the court doesn’t suffer even without marquee teams.
“Butler’s story is getting to be beyond remarkable,” Aresco said. “No one expected this team to do that.”
Overall ratings for the NCAA tournament are up more than 9 percent over last spring. The 6.2/13 is the highest average rating for the tournament through the Final Four since a 6.6/14 in 2005.
This was the first season of the NCAA’s 14-year, $10.8 billion contract with CBS and Turner, which meant every game was televised nationally for the first time.
Aresco said the ability for fans to follow teams exclusively from the beginning of the tournament without having to be jostled between games helped viewers jump on the bandwagon earlier than usual.
“VCU people were able to watch them play five times,” Aresco said. “It’s been like a snowball. It builds.”