NCAA tournament: CBS and Turner say men's March Madness TV viewership up 12%

More viewers are watching the men’s NCAA tournament so far in 2022 than they did in 2021.

CBS and Turner said Tuesday that the television audience for the first two rounds of the tournament was up 12% from 2021 and averaging over 9 million viewers per timeslot. The broadcasters said that the average viewership in 2022 is the highest through two rounds in five years.

The most-watched game of the tournament so far is, unsurprisingly, Duke’s second-round win over Michigan State. That game at 5 p.m. ET on Sunday drew an average of over 11 million viewers according to Showbuzz Daily.

Michigan’s upset of Tennessee on Saturday had over 9.8 million viewers. The Wolverines are in the Sweet 16 for the fifth consecutive season after beating Colorado State and the Volunteers this tournament.

North Carolina’s upset win over Baylor garnered just over 7 million viewers despite tipping off at noon ET on Saturday. That game had more viewers than Houston’s win over Illinois in the same time slot on Sunday.

GREENVILLE, SC - MARCH 20: Head coach Mike Krzyzewski of the Duke Blue Devils and head coach Tom Izzo of the Michigan State Spartans talk before their game during the second round of the 2022 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament held at Bon Secours Wellness Arena on March 20, 2022 in Greenville, South Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

The highest-rated game of the first round was the biggest upset of the tournament. The Saint Peter’s Peacocks’ upset of No. 2 Kentucky had nearly 5.5 million viewers. That game was broadcast on CBS on Thursday in the 7 p.m. ET game window.

The Peacocks drew an average of 6.7 million viewers on Saturday night in their win over Murray State to become the third No. 15 seed to advance to the Sweet 16.

While the TV ratings for the tournament are looking good right now, they may end up falling a bit by the end of the tournament because of the channels broadcasting the games the rest of the way. TBS has the rights to Saturday’s Elite Eight games and is also the rights holder for the Final Four this year. Games on cable tend to rate lower than they do on CBS.

The last Final Four entirely broadcast on TBS was in 2018. Nearly 16 million watched Villanova beat Michigan for the national title and an average of just over 13 million watched the semifinals. In 2019 on CBS, the average viewership of the semifinals was 14.4 million and 19.6 million people watched Virginia beat Texas Tech in overtime for the national title.