Final Four Championship Game Off 14% From Last Year

Rash Report: But Tar Heels Still Win Night for CBS

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MINNEAPOLIS (AdAge.com) -- North Carolina's victory over Michigan State in the NCAA basketball championship was a blowout on the court and in the ratings. But the highly hyped matchup fell short of last year's Kansas win over Memphis State.

The North Carolina Tar Heels won the NCAA basketball championship and the night for CBS.
The North Carolina Tar Heels won the NCAA basketball championship and the night for CBS. Credit: AP
Delivering a 6.3/16 rating and share in the ad-centric 18-to-49 demographic, last night's game lost 14% of last year's audience. But combined with a 3.9/10 for the pregame show, "Prelude to a Championship," as well as a 2.6/7 and 2.5/6 for reruns of "The Big Bang Theory" and "How I Met Your Mother," respectively, CBS was the night's champion, with an overall 5.1/14. Fox followed with a 4.4/11, and ABC was third, with a 3.6/9. NBC (2.3/6) and the CW (.5/1) finished fourth and fifth, respectively.

The relatively low ratings were directly due to declining interest once the Tar Heels began stomping all over the Spartans. Some of the audience attrition was probably due to some sports fans flipping to baseball games on ESPN or local channels and regional cable sports networks, as it was opening day for Major League Baseball.

The loss of those viewers apparently wasn't due to a rush back to rival networks, as all but one other network show underdelivered its season average. NBC's young-male dramas were hit hardest, with "Chuck" down 16% to a season-tying low 2.1/6 and "Heroes" (2.6/6) losing 32% of its regular audience, as many defected to basketball on CBS. "Medium" (2.2/5) had a big 15% erosion as well.

Fox's "House" (5.1/13), conversely, held well in the non-basketball 8 p.m. hour, just slightly underdelivering its season average. And "24" (3.8/9) rose a 10th of a ratings point.

Although NCAA basketball -- like all sports -- has a dual-gender fan base, it may have been a good night to counterprogram baseball and basketball with original episodes of female-focused dramas "Gossip Girl" and "One Tree Hill." But both were reruns, and each delivered a .5/1, only about a third of its normal level.

ABC also has a female focus on Monday nights, and although "Dancing With the Stars" (4.6/12) was off 13% from its season average, it provided an audience for the program premiere of "Surviving Suburbia," which not only survived but thrived, as ABC reported it had the most total viewers of any sitcom debut in the past year and a half. It delivered a 3.0/7, retaining a relatively healthy 65% of the lead-in from "Stars." But that didn't seem to help "Castle" (2.3/6), which was 15% off its average.

WHAT TO WATCH:
Tuesday: Opening Day is over, and there are still 161 games to go. So rest a few innings and switch from Major League Baseball to the Peanuts gang in "Charlie Brown All Stars!" on ABC, which follows the annual "It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown."
Wednesday: Fox's "American Idol" and PBS's "American Masters" offer two different video versions of music culture, with "Masters" portraying composer Philip Glass.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
Reality to rule on Tuesday night, as "Idol" and NBC's "Biggest Loser" are probably the two top-rated shows.

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NOTE: All ratings based on adults 18-49. A share is a percentage of adults 18-49 who have their TV sets on at a given time. A rating is a percentage of all adults 18-49, whether or not their sets are turned on. For example, a 1.0 rating is 1% of the total U.S. adults 18-49 population with TVs. Ratings quoted in this column are based on live-plus-same-day unless otherwise noted. (Many ad deals have been negotiated on the basis of commercial-minute, live-plus-three-days viewing.)

John Rash is senior VP-director of media analysis for Campbell Mithun, Minneapolis. For more, see rashreport.com.

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