When it comes to sheer fan bedlam, no other tournament can touch “March Madness” – otherwise known as the NCAA Men’s Basketball Division 1 Championship Tournament. The excitement begins before the actual games even get underway in the form of “Bracketology” – the process in which so-called experts and fans alike predict the selection and seeding of 64 teams and their respective chances of advancing from round to round in a single-elimination format.
The 2017 NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament kicks off on March 14th and runs all the way through to the national championship game on April 3rd. It’s a 3-week gauntlet that raises the national fever with each successive round, and for those unable to attend the games in person, there will be plenty of action on cable as Turner Sports will telecast well over 40 games on TBS, TNT and TruTV:
While ratings and shares were off from the 2015 Tournament (due, in part, to specific team match-ups), the three Turner networks still delivered very strong audience levels last year. Across 46 games (112 hour of programming content), truTV, TB and TNT averaged a combined 2.4 Live U.S. HH rating (good for a 4.5 Share):
Home Court Advantage
The national ratings above are just that – national. But when you scratch below the surface to the local markets of participating teams, you’ll find ratings that sky way above the rim. In the national championship game that aired on TBS (i.e., Villanova Wildcats versus the Tar Heels of North Carolina), the Live U.S. household rating reached 10.77. But in Villanova’s hometown of Philadelphia, the local rating was 77% higher (177.0 Index), while the Raleigh-Durham market for North Carolina more than doubled the national rating (234.8 Index.) And that’s just for starters! When the Wichita State Shockers (yes… that’s their school mascot) played the University of Arizona, the hometown fans in Wichita drove the local DMA rating to a level over 13-times the national figure (1376.8 Index):
From an advertiser’s perspective, there’s a lot to like about “March Madness”. Not only do the games attract a very large, highly engaged audience, they also attract hard-to-reach men who are (on average) light TV viewers. Moreover, the audience is upscale with ratings peaking for homes with an average annual income of $175,000 – $199,999:
Local Cable Advertising Demand
Local cable advertising demand for “March Madness” is very strong; indeed, over the past two tournaments (2015 & 2016) 1,000+ clients across 65 Viamedia markets (~88% of Viamedia’s national footprint) ordered more than 74,000 :30-second spots! That comes to an average of 35 spots per client (per tournament year.) Source: B.I.G.SM database — Copyright © 2017 by Viamedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved
And when we confine our analysis to the 60 Viamedia markets that exhibited advertising in “March Madness” over the past two years, we find an advertising growth rate of 27% driven by both an increase in the number of commercials and 30-second unit pricing:
- 18% rise in the number of 30-second units;
- 8% rise in unit pricing;
- 1% rise due to the multiplicative effect of units sold and pricing.
Source: Viamedia internal analysis of B.I.G.SM database (Sports & High Profile Tracker module) across the 60 markets that exhibited local cable advertising on “March Madness” over the past two years 2015 and 2016. Copyright © 2017 by Viamedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
A sure sign of the wide-spread appeal of “March Madness” is the fact that – out of the 60 Viamedia markets that exhibited advertising activity in the games over the past two years — 70% of them experienced higher ad investments in 2016 (vs 2015):
Big time sports on cable TV attracts significant investments from the automotive industry and “March “Madness” is no exception. One-half of all local cable advertising was automotive (manufactures, regional dealer groups and individual dealerships) with the next seven largest categories representing about one-third:
We’ll Be Back!
Viamedia has more than just a pecuniary interest in “March Madness.” It just so happens that a stone’s throw north of our Lexington, Kentucky Headquarters lies the University of Kentucky whose Wildcats lost in the second round of the 2016 Tournament. There are more than just a few UK alums here at Viamedia, so they’re all thinking the same thing: we’ll be back this March! And so, too, will millions of college basketball fans getting their fill of “March Madness” on TBS, TNT and TruTV.
Written by Jonathan Sims
VP Media Research, Viamedia