March Madness Championship Game Hits Record Low Viewership for CBS

Title game finishes down 14% from 2019

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Gonzaga fans weren’t the only ones who woke up in a bad mood on Tuesday. CBS continued its string of bad luck with marquee sporting events as Monday’s National Championship Game between Gonzaga and Baylor drew 16.9 million viewers.

That makes it the least-viewed National Championship game to air on broadcast, down 14% from 2019. The only title game to draw fewer viewers was in 2018, when Turner’s three cable networks simulcast the National Championship.

In 2019, Virginia’s defeat of Texas Tech earned CBS an 11.6 rating and 19.63 million viewers. The 2020 version of the tournament was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It didn’t help that the game was practically over at the start, with Baylor scoring the first nine points. The Bears thoroughly — and surprisingly, given Gonzaga’s undefeated record — thumped the top-seeded Bulldogs to win the school’s first basketball title. The Bears never trailed in the game.

The National Championship game became the latest top sporting event to suffer COVID-era ratings declines. Both the World Series and NBA Finals posted record-low audiences, while February’s Super Bowl (also aired by CBS) drew a 14-year low. If CBS wants a small bit of bragging rights, Gonzaga-Baylor now ranks as the most-watched non-football sports event since the games returned last summer. Gonzaga’s thrilling overtime victory over UCLA in the Final Four on Saturday ranks as the second.

It was also the first time that the Final Four did not feature a single school from the Eastern Time Zone. Baylor is from Texas, while Gonzaga is located in Washington. University of Houston was the other school.

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