March Madness Selection Show Scores Highest Rating In Five Years

The March Madness buzz is already lit as CBS and Turner Sports’ NCAA selection show earns 4.0 rating.

The 2019 NCAA March Madness Selection Show on CBS capitalized on a stable of incredible freshman players, intense social media interest and the uncertain fate of some perennial tournament teams to produce its highest ratings in five years.

Produced in partnership between CBS Sports and Turner Sports, the show earned a 4.0 rating, its highest since 2014 (4.2). 

The Selection Show actually peaked at a 4.3 from 6:30-6:45 p.m. ET.

With all of the new forms of communication and various ways to view The Selection Show and results, its viewership was down 31% since 2009 when it drew 7.079 million.

In 2017, the show fell to an all-time low of 4.883 million as CBS was reluctant to air it live, instead choosing to run the results minutes after the selection process happened. This didnt go over well on social media. Looking for more eyes from the cable community, TBS took over the Selection Show in 2018. It was the first time in 36 years that the show didn’t air on CBS.

Zion Effect

This latest ratings rise is great news for the NCAA and CBS, but much of  the network’s  success can be directly attributed to the Zion Effect and the tremendous impact the Duke freshman has had on the entire basketball landscape. He’s been a walking money machine for Duke University and NCAA hoops in general. 

When Zion went down with the foot injury, college basketball was in limbo for six games. When he announced his return for the ACC Tournament and then scored a Duke record 81 points over three games, it further boosted interest in the NCAA Tournament,  No. 1 Duke and some prominent programs whose March Madness hopes were held captive by the selection committee (St. John’s, Indiana, NC State).


Top 5 markets in terms of ratings share are all known bastions of college hoops. 

Louisville 16.4

As usual, the state of Kentucky has several teams on the NCAA Championship hunt and basketball fever is a 365 day-a-year disease in that part of the globe. Many people watched in anticipation of a soap opera unraveling.  To see if Richard Pitino’s Minnesota Gophers would be matched up against Louisville, the team that fired his dad Rick in 2017 after the legendary coach was implicated in an FBI probe into various NCAA recruiting violations.  


Columbus 11.8

Ohio loves its football, but the state is also a traditional college hoops haven. The Buckeyes always have the state in a frenzy, especially when the program is thriving and the Cavs stink. 11-seed Ohio State will face Iowa State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.


Indianapolis 11.3

Hoosier Town is always ready to get down and rep March Madness. Indiana was a bubble team that finished in eighth place in the Big Ten and lost a heartbreaker to Ohio State in the second round of the conference tournament. The entire state probably watched Indiana get snubbed and will have to settle for an NIT bid.


Greensboro-High Point-Winston Salem, 10.3

North Carolina has so many competitive and multi-faceted universities. From NCAA Tournament favorites Duke and North Carolina to Gardner-Webb and HBCU underdog NC Central, who snuck into a First Four matchup with North Dakota State on Wednesday, the state’s fan base is thick, deep and diverse.


Kansas City & Cincinnati, 9.8

The Bearcats put a whipping on the 31-3 Houston Cougars to win the AAC title. That win undoubtedly inspired Ohio hoops heads and Bearcats Nation to flock to the selection show, where they discovered that the Bearcats are a seven seed and will face 10-seed Iowa in the first round on Friday.

JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The General Manager of Content & Social Media is in his 25th year of covering sports and culture professionally. He has covered a wide variety of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, newspapers, magazines and national TV. His passion is baseball, the culturing of baseball and preserving and documenting the historically-impactful accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in baseball.