According to numbers released by Sports Media Watch, the NCAA’s final four drew more ratings than the NBA finals this year.
Compared to other sports, the NBA Finals trailed the three-game NCAA Tournament Final Four (11.0, 18.3M*), but finished comfortably ahead of the five-game Bowl Championship Series (8.8, 15.1M). The NBA Finals also easily outdrew last year’s World Series (7.6, 12.7M).
This is great news for the sport of college basketball. To be fair, the NBA finals this year was one of the most exciting events in sports history, especially in recent years. The biggest problem the NBA faced was the unsubstantiated belief that the San Antonio Spurs are “boring and slow’.
For the NCAA though, outdrawing the NBA is a great sign. The NCAA tournament is one of the most hyped events in the USA, that has always been the case. These numbers are suggesting that people outside the United States are tuning in as well.
Personally, I believe that a big reason for these high viewer ratings is that the NCAA has slowly but surely become a much more international league. This is definitely the case for Canadians, expecially at schools like Gonzaga, Texas and Syracuse, but it has also been similar for a lot of Europeans. It is just common sense that people are more likely to watch if they have something personal to cheer for.
Players in recent years like Andrew Bogut, Luol Deng and Alex Len have given fans outside of the United States an extra reason to watch. They want to be able to cheer on their country men, it’s only natural.
Hopefully the growth of the sport continues. Obviously, in terms of college sports, American Football continues to be number one in the hearts of many Americans but internationally, that will never be the case. Basketball is a huge global game that is growing extremely rapidly and these viewership numbers support that case.