If you happen to be a fan of binge viewing and college basketball, then it’s a real good bet you’ll be glued to cable television beginning March 15th for the 78th NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament. Or, in the argot of our time, “March Madness,” as the Turner triple play of TBS, TNT and truTV kicks in with a total of 45 games (100+ hours of live sports programming) crammed into the space of just ten tournament days!
With so many games in such a short time, you would think viewer fatigue might creep in when it comes to “March Madness”?
Fuhgeddaboudit… not with the most exciting playoff system in all of college sports as 68 teams square off in a single elimination format that culminates in the championship game on April 4th. It’s a “survival of the fittest” gauntlet that raises the national fever with each successive round as can be seen in the graph and chart below:
There were more than just tall players leaping on the court in last year’s tournament. Ratings and shares for all three Turner networks made a huge leap forward in 2015 with gains of anywhere from 30 – 50%:
Home Court Advantage
The national ratings above are just that – national. But when you scratch below the surface to local markets with home-town college teams participating in the tournament, you’ll find ratings that sky way above the rim. The 2015 Final Four Game, for example, between the Wisconsin Badgers and the Kentucky Wildcats pulled down an 11.4 national rating. In the hometown DMA of the Badgers (Madison, WI), the rating was more than double that figure (25.0), while the hometown DMA rating of the Wildcats (Lexington, KY) was 40.7.
Source: Viamedia analysis of Rentrak TV Essentials Data (National Telecast Detail//TV Market) for the Final 4 Game (Wisconsin Badgers vs Kentucky Wildcats) that aired on Saturday, April 4th, 2015 on TBS (180 total minutes.)
From an advertiser’s perspective, there’s a lot to like about “March Madness”. Not only do the games attract a very large, highly engaged audience, they also attract hard-to-reach men who are (on average) light TV viewers. Moreover, the audience is very upscale with ratings climbing as household income rises – indeed, the rating size / HH Income connection is quite pronounced:
Local Cable Advertising Demand
The spectacular growth in “March Madness” viewing has been matched by similar gains in local cable advertising… and then some! In 2015, well over 650 clients across 64 Viamedia markets (88% of Viamedia’s national footprint) ordered more than 34,000 :30-second spots! That comes to an average of over 50 spots per client. (Source: B.I.G.SM database -- Copyright © 2016 by Viamedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved)
And when we confine our analysis to the 55 Viamedia markets that exhibited advertising in “March Madness” over the past two years, we find a remarkable growth rate of 47% driven by both an increase in the number of commercials and 30-second unit pricing:
1) 28% rise in the number of 30-second units;
2) 15% rise in unit pricing;
3) 4% rise due to the multiplicative effect of units sold and pricing.
Source: Viamedia internal analysis of B.I.G.SM database (Sports & High Profile Tracker module) across the 55 markets that exhibited local cable advertising on “March Madness” over the past two years 2014 and 2015. Copyright © 2016 by Viamedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
A sure sign of the wide-spread appeal of “March Madness” is the fact that – out of the 55 Viamedia markets that exhibited advertising activity in the games over the past two years -- 85% of them experienced higher ad investments in 2015 (vs 2014):
Big time sports on cable TV attracts significant investments from the automotive industry and “March “Madness” is no exception. Twenty-eight of the Top Fifty advertisers over the past two years were either auto manufacturers or auto dealerships. And in total, 52% of all local cable advertising was automotive, with the next six largest categories representing a little less than one-third:
Beware the Ides of March
No… this isn’t about a soothsayer’s warning to Julius Caesar, but rather a certain madness that descends over millions of Americans in the middle of March. All of a sudden basketball fans are seized with “Bracket Fever” as they study all the potential pairings to assess the odds that their favorite team will make it to the “Round of 32”; the “Sweet Sixteen”; the “Elite Eight”; the “Final Four; and then on to the Championship game. And if you are unable to make it to one of the tournament venues to partake in the sheer bedlam and pandemonium, then you can feast your eyes on over forty “March Madness” games brought into the “quiet” of your home by TBS, TNT and truTV.