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NEW YORK: With March Madness gearing up to tip off on Thursday, Nielsen tossed out some tidbits on the 2008 tourney audience. Last year’s NCAA tournament reached a total of 136.8 million TV viewers, with viewership in Louisville, Ky., being the highest in five years.

Ad revenue climbed 34 percent over the last five years, with GM being the biggest buyer during the last five tourneys. The price for a 30-second spot was more than $1 million. CBS carries all but the play-in game, which airs on ESPN.

ESPN also covers the series online along with Yahoo!, which ha the two most-visited sports Web sites last March, with 19.8 and 19.4 million unique users, respectively. Traffic on the CBS Sports Web platform rose up 59 percent over the previous month.

Demographically, more African Americans watch the games than other ethnic groups when compared to a national composite. All March Madness fans buy more cars, beer, fast food and financial services than the average American. They also have a greater propensity for gardening.

This year’s Final Four takes place April 4-6 at Ford Field in Detroit, Mich. – Deborah D. McAdams