Putting the Big East Tournament TV Ratings in Context

With so much amazing basketball still to be played, I usually wait until the offseason to start dissecting Big East TV numbers. But there seems to be a narrative forming online that having 2 midwest schools in Xavier and Marquette was “bad” for the league in terms of attendance, excitement and even TV ratings.

Did you know that the Atlantic 10 Tournament final outdrew the Big East?

Did you know that has been the case 4 out of the past 6 years?

Now if you click the Tweet link above there is a thread where Mr. Penfield clarifies this is more of him worrying about FOX, rather than a midwest v east coast thing.

But even there, I think there is a false impression that the TV ratings for the Big East Tournament final usually dwarf some of the non-power conferences, and the past 6 years of data (as far back as Show Buzz Daily has archives for eyeball metrics) simply disprove that.

For starters, the Big East Final averaged 980,00 viewers on FOX. It’s definitely not some great number and it is a 19% drop compared to last year’s tilt showcasing Villanova and Creighton. But did anyone using that stat to procalim the inherit greatness of the East Coast or OG Big East teams even look at what the TV ratings were when Georgetown beat Creighton in 2021?

Of course not, actually researching freely available info that doesn’t confirm priors seems like a waste of time. But adding context to stupid questions is my specialty.

What else did that Georgetown final have in common with Marquette’s? It was a blowout from start to finish, with the Hoyas leading by 31 in the 2nd half. Nothing dissipates an audience faster than a blowout, and when Marquette went up by 27 in the 2nd half, there wasn’t much reason left to watch and other games to turn to.

And besides, let’s not act like the Big East Final has drawn behemoth ratings every other year. Here’s the breakdown since 2017, all on FOX in a similar timeslot.

With a median of 1.108M in this timespan, the 2023 final was down about 12%. Low, no doubt, but not some outlier.

What I can say with certainty is that Villanova does stand apart from the rest of the league. It’s run of dominance and NCAA titles has brought with it a national audience that does move the needle. Not having Villanova hurts ratings. (The same can be said for UConn to a bit of a lesser extent.) Not having a close game hurts ratings. Everything else you can quibble with on the margins.

Now, this is where the comparisons to the rest of the country come into play. Here’s what the last 6 years of conference title games look like.

Why is the Big East so low each year, comparatively speaking, no matter the teams playing? The channel, duh.

For the most part every conference final has been on the same channel since 2017, which makes it difficult to test the hypothesis. But the Pac-12 alone has bounced around. They’ve been on ESPN 4 times, FOX once and FS1 once.

You’d expect FS1 to be lowest and it is by a significant margin, drawing 612,000 viewers for a 10pm tip in 2018. It’s lone FOX appearance came in 2022, with the Big East as the lead in to a 9pm tip, and it drew 1,3M that year. In the other 4 seasons, the title game, despite starting after 10:45pm ET, has averaged 1.69M viewers.

Again the only thing that changed for the Pac-12, other than the teams involved, was the channel and start time. ESPN has a relevance with sports, and college basketball in particular, that makes it the preeminent location for big events, even being on cable. The ACC, B12, SEC and AAC have been the beneficiaries (outside of being composed of large public schools).

And then you have CBS, which is THE home for college basketball in March, which hosts the Big Ten, Mountain West, and A10 Tournaments during the daytime.

With all that context, now look at the “standings” from the past 6 years.

If you want really big ratings for the BET you need a close game, Villanova or UConn, and for the Big East to lose a contract that has made it the centerpiece of an entire channel.

Tags: , , , ,

Categories: Analysis


Subscribe to our RSS feed and social profiles to receive updates.

One Comment on “Putting the Big East Tournament TV Ratings in Context”

  1. Chris mauri
    March 15, 2023 at 7:09 pm #

    One more point to consider….at the top of the charts you have schools with giant student bodies, number of alumni and no pro teams competing for eyeballs…compared to most of the BE schools

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: