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Streaming lifts Turner, CBS to 2% March Madness audience gain through Saturday

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Streaming lifts Turner, CBS to 2% March Madness audience gain through Saturday

Bolstered by NCAA March Madness Live streaming, the total audience delivery for the 2018 version of March Madness was up 2% through the corresponding stage of the 2017 tourney.

Total audience delivery for the first five days of the 2018 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship on CBS Corp.'s CBS (US), Turner Broadcasting System Inc.'s TBS (US), TNT (US), truTV (US) and NCAA March Madness Live averaged 8.7 million viewers. That compares with 8.6 million a year ago, according to data from Nielsen Holdings and Conviva.

Backing out the contributions from NCAA March Madness Live — the suite of live-streaming products developed by Turner Sports in partnership with CBS and the NCAA — the four linear TV networks averaged 8.28 million watchers through March 17, a 3% drop from 8.55 million viewers at the corresponding stage of the 2017 tournament, which had been the most-watched in 24 years.

Over the course of the tourney’s first five days, including the First Four contests on March 13 and 14, NCAA March Madness notched several records, notably 11.1 million hours of live consumption, a 4% advance from the same time last year, according to data from Conviva.

The first contest on March 15, Rhode Island’s defeat of Oklahoma, generated the most live streams of any tournament game to date, according to Turner Sports, although the number was not specified.

The 2:30 p.m. ET window that day, which included a number of contests, tallied the most concurrent streams for an overall game window.

Official March Madness social media accounts across Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc. grew 16% to 110 million impressions through March 17, while video views across those platforms and Instagram Inc. leaped 45% from the same stage of the 2017 event.

The tournament had already seen the dismissal of overall No. 1 seed Virginia — the Cavaliers were routed by the University of Baltimore, Maryland County on March 16, marking the first time a 16-seed ever beat a top seed — and a highly touted Arizona team the night before. The tourney also lost three other major contenders on March 18: Xavier, the No. 1 seed in the West region, a No. 2 seed in Cincinnati and perennial tourney powerhouse Michigan State, all bowed out on Sunday.

The collective exits of those marquee teams could have an impact on audiences going forward, when the tournament resumes with Sweet 16 action on March 22.