HOLLYWOOD (CNS) - The NCAA men's basketball tournament championship game accomplished the rare feat of drawing more viewers than when it last aired on cable, according to live-plus-same-day figures released by Nielsen today.
The TBS, TNT and truTV simulcast of Kansas' 72-69 victory over North Carolina April 4 was the most-watched prime-time cable or broadcast program in the week ending Sunday, averaging 17.052 million viewers. Viewership was 6.4% more than the 16.029 million for the 2018 championship game, Villanova's 79-62 victory over Michigan on the same three networks
The game annually alternates between CBS and Turner Sports. The tournament was not played in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Viewership for nearly all forms of programming has decreased in recent years as the growth of streaming services increases viewers' choices.
The audience was the second-largest for a prime-time program since NBC's post-Super Bowl Winter Olympics coverage Feb. 13 averaged 21.277 million viewers, trailing North Carolina's 81-77 victory over Duke April 2 in the final game of Mike Krzyzewski's 42-season career as the Blue Devils' coach, which averaged 17.663 million viewers on TBS, TNT and truTV.
CBS was the most-watched network for the seventh time in the seven weeks following the conclusion of NBC's coverage of the Winter Olympics, and 13th time in the 29-week-old 2021-22 television season, averaging 4.18 million viewers for its prime-time programming.
CBS had seven of the week's 13 most-watched programs, topped by ``60 Minutes,'' second for the week, averaging 9.272 million viewers for an edition featuring a two-part report and extensive interview with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
The news magazine drew its largest audience since Jan. 16, when it averaged 11.291 million viewers following a wild-card-round NFL playoff game. Sunday's edition began 21 minutes later than usual in the Eastern and Central time zones, where the bulk of the nation's population lives, because of the runover of the coverage of the final round of the Masters Tournament.
The runover averaged 11.555 million viewers. It is not considered a separate program but is included in the weekly average.
CBS had the most-watched program beginning at 10 p.m., ``Blue Bloods,'' sixth for the week averaging 5.934 million viewers, the most-watched comedy, a rerun of ``Young Sheldon,'' 19th, averaging 4.074 million viewers, and the most-watched first-season program, a rerun of ``Ghosts,'' 28th, averaging 3.632 million.
ABC was second for the seventh consecutive week, averaging 3.59 million viewers. Like the previous week, its most-watched programs were the Monday and Sunday editions of ``American Idol,'' eighth and 10th for the week, averaging 5.597 million and 5.312 million viewers.
NBC was third, averaging 3.03 million viewers. Its three ``Chicago'' series were its most-watched programs, with ``Chicago Fire'' third averaging 7.395 million, ``Chicago Med'' fifth averaging 6.605 million, and ``Chicago P.D.'' seventh and second among programs beginning at 10 p.m., averaging 5.709 million.
CBS, ABC and NBC all aired 22 hours of prime-time programming.
Fox averaged 1.74 million viewers for its 15 hours, six minutes of prime-time programming, topped by ``The Masked Singer,'' 20th, averaging 3.972 million viewers.
The CW averaged 390,000 viewers for its 14 hours of programming. The crime drama ``Walker'' was its most-watched program for the ninth time in its 13 episodes this season, averaging 905,000 viewers, 126th among broadcast programs. Its overall rank was not available. The only premiere on the five major English-language broadcast networks, the CW comedy panel show ``Would I Lie to You?'' was 205th among broadcast programs, averaging 435,000 viewers. The 20 most watched prime-time programs consisted of the NCAA men's basketball tournament championship game, eight CBS programs -- six scripted programs, ``60 Minutes'' and the alternative series ``Survivor''; five NBC scripted programs; five ABC programs -- three alternative programs and two scripted; and Fox's ``The Masked Singer.''
Fox News Channel was the most-watched cable network for the second consecutive week and 11th in the past 12, averaging 2.324 million viewers. TBS was second, averaging 1.522 million, and TNT third, averaging 1.2 million.
The cable top 20 consisted of the NCAA men's basketball tournament championship game and its pregame show; 13 Fox News Channel political talk shows -- five broadcasts each of ``Tucker Carlson Tonight'' and ``Hannity'' and three of ``The Ingraham Angle''; History's long-running chronicle of a search for treasure on a Canadian island, ``The Curse of Oak Island''; the 8-9 p.m. segment of USA Network's professional wrestling program, ``WWE Raw''; the Hallmark Channel period drama ``When Calls The Heart''; the TLC series about couples who have built a relationship online but not met in person, ``90 Day Fiancé: Before the 90 Days''; and ESPN's ``Sunday Night Baseball'' game between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees.
An episode of the Univision telenovela ``Madre'' was the week's most- watched Spanish-language program for the third time in six weeks, with the Monday episode averaging 1.965 million viewers, 59th among broadcast programs. Its overall rank was not available.
Univision was the most-watched Spanish-language network for the 123rd consecutive week and 125th time in 126 weeks, averaging 1.4 million viewers. Telemundo was second, averaging 860,000 viewers, followed by UniMas (500,000), Estrella TV (110,000) and Azteca America (30,000).
ABC's ``World News Tonight with David Muir'' was the most-watched nightly newscast for the 122nd time in 123 weeks and 174th time in 176 weeks, averaging 7.927 million viewers. ``NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt'' was second, averaging 6.732 million.
The ``CBS Evening News with Norah O'Donnell'' was third, averaging 4.782 million.
The week's 10 most-watched prime-time programs were the NCAA men's basketball tournament championship game; CBS' ``60 Minutes''; NBC's ``Chicago Fire''; CBS' ``The Equalizer''; NBC's ``Chicago Med''; CBS' ``Blue Bloods''; NBC's ``Chicago P.D.''; the Monday edition of ABC's ``American Idol''; CBS' ``Survivor''; and the Sunday edition of ``American Idol.''