- Associated Press - Monday, December 12, 2016

PHOENIX (AP) - The NCAA Tournament followed a massive jump in ratings with a big tumble last season after switching the title game to cable TV.

The NCAA’s response: Give it time.

“You have to look at it over periods of time, not in one-year blips,” Mark Hollis, chair of the NCAA’s Division I men’s basketball committee, said Monday. “We’re in extremely good position as far as interest.”

The NCAA agreed to a 14-year deal with CBS and Turner in 2010, with the two companies essentially acting as one under the contract, combining on all aspects of the contract while alternating years on the Final Four.

The 2015 NCAA Tournament saw a huge surge in ratings for the game between Duke and Wisconsin, posting its highest average viewership in 22 years with 11.3 million viewers.

The Final Four was on TBS last season, marking the first time it aired on cable TV. Ratings for the entire tournament were down across CBS and the three Turner networks - TBS, Turner and truTV - and the title game drew a record-low rating, dropping 37 percent from 2015.

The 2016 title game ended up being one of the most dramatic in history, with Kris Jenkins hitting a game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer to lift Villanova over North Carolina.

“The difference in rating was somewhat predictable … the number of homes CBS is in than TBS is different,” said Dan Gavitt, NCAA vice president of men’s basketball championships. “The thing that struck me was that both CBS and Turner were thrilled with the numbers. They sold out all of their ad inventory weeks before the tournament. From an NCAA perspective, as long as the games are broadly available, then we are accomplishing our goal for the fans. Whether it’s on CBS or TBS, that’s the key.”

Turner and CBS signed an eight-year extension shortly after last year’s Final Four, a deal that will carry the partnership through 2032.


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