Gonzaga’s shot at history was crushed in the final game of the 2021 National Collegiate Athletic Association men’s basketball tournament, when the Bulldogs lost their first game of the season to the Baylor Bears, and viewership suffered.
The 2021 NCAA men’s basketball championship game attracted an average of 16.9 million viewers to CBS Sports on Monday, a 14% drop from the 2019 game. The 2020 game has been canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Baylor prevented Gonzaga from going undefeated, beating the Bulldogs 86-70. A win would have ended a perfect season for Gonzaga and would be the first time a men’s program has gone undefeated since the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers.
This year’s game was the least-watched championship to air on CBS since the network began broadcasting the games in 1982. It’s also the lowest since WarnerMedia-owned Turner Sports aired the game in 2018, after CBS and Turner began swapping every two years in 2016. game, between Villanova and the University of Michigan, attracted approximately 16.5 million viewers.
CBS had about 19 million viewers for the 2019 Virginia-Texas Tech championship game. That was a decrease from the 2017 game with the University of North Carolina and Gonzaga, which attracted many visitors. about 22 million viewers.
For the 2021 Men’s Final Four matches, an average of 14.9 million viewers watched Saturday’s Gonzaga-UCLA overtime buzzer-beater, and that match peaked at 18.8 million viewers. Baylor’s win over Houston had 8.1 million viewers, a 37% drop compared to the early 2019 semifinals.
Last month, John Bogusz, CBS Network’s executive vice president of sports sales and marketing, acknowledged the decline in NCAA’s viewership during the pandemic. He said the network had reserved additional ad inventory for marketers if the network failed to meet its viewership goals.
“We’ll see how the games perform, but we’ve set aside a little inventory to take care of our advertisers when needed,” Bogusz said.
Disney-owned ESPN hosted the women’s tournament in San Antonio. On Tuesday, it said the title game between Arizona and Stanford drew an average of 4 million viewers on Sunday, peaking at 5.9 million. The network said it was the most-watched competition for women since 2014.
Stanford defeated the Wildcats, 54-53, to win its first NCAA women’s basketball title since 1992.
The network also reported solid numbers around the semifinal games. Stanford’s win over South Carolina drew an average of 1.6 million viewers, while the University of Connecticut’s loss to Arizona had 2.6 million viewers, a 24% increase from the 2019 second semifinal match.
Disney posted six games of the women’s tournament on its ABC network, marking the first time a broadcast network carried games of the women’s tournament since 1995, when CBS aired some games.
The March 27 game Iowa vs. Connecticut was the highest-rated of the games, with 1.5 million viewers, followed by the Michigan-Baylor game with 1.2 million. The network said the Sweet 16 games aired on ABC, ESPN and ESPN2 averaged 918,000 viewers, a 67% increase from 2019.