WRAL Makes A Slam Dunk With March Madness and April Championship Games

basketball The NCAA Tournament featured not one, but three ACC teams from the Triangle, and WRAL-TV worked overtime to bring the games, fan reaction, press conferences with coaches and players, and more to viewers. Despite a #10-seeding, NC State beat the odds and went two games deep in the brackets, and Duke won two games in the tourney as well. And then the North Carolina Tarheels went all the way, to win their first National Championship title since 1993.

Heels NCAA Run Wins Ratings For WRAL
UNC’s last two games in the NCAA tournament were a ratings bonanza for WRAL-TV.

UNC Center Sean May scored 26 points to push the Heels ahead of the Fighting Illini in the final game, and WRAL pulled gigantic ratings for the match-up. The Monday night Championship Game on Monday, April 4, 2005, at 9pm drew a 41.0 rating, 53 share, close to Super Bowl numbers. The last two Super Bowls, the highest rated program every year, had an average rating of 46.5.

“Carolina and WRAL both won big on Monday night.” said WRAL-TV Director of Programming John Harris. “Carolina won the NCAA championship and WRAL had the highest ratings in the nation for the game.  Quite a combination!”

Saturday night’s semi-final game between UNC and Michigan State pulled a 35.4 rating and 49 share, again big numbers.

NCAA Double Feature Draws Big Ratings
When both Duke and NC State won their way into the Sweet Sixteen, their simultaneous game times (Duke to play at 7:10pm in Austin and NC State to play at 7:27pm in Syracuse) looked like a migraine in the making for WRAL-TV. But with creative thinking and a call to the network of sister station FOX 50, both CBC station made a proverbial purse of ratings out of a sow’s ear.

Ratings for the State game on WRAL and the Duke game on FOX 50 were huge, approaching Super Bowl status when viewership numbers are combined. At 9pm, WRAL and FOX 50 drew a combined 40 household rating 60 share of the audience. Later in the evening, the UNC game generated a 26.2 rating at 12:15am, which is an amazing number for any programming after midnight.

“This was a classic ‘win-win’ for CBC and CBS,” said Harris.  “With two huge games on our two local stations we were able to dominate the market on this particular night.  No one else in the nation had it so good.” 

As the sweet sixteen whittled down to the final four, the national network CBS also experienced great ratings across the country, winning the coveted 18-49-year-old demographic. The four regional games among the elite eight drew an audience 44% higher than the same games one year ago, with three of the four games going into overtime.

For the week CBS averaged 13.9 million viewers with an 8.8 rating 15 share. Nationally the FOX network came in second with 10.3 million viewers, 6.3 rating 10 share.

The top ten shows for the week of March 21-27 were:

  1. “American Idol” (Tuesday), FOX
  2. “Desperate Housewives,” ABC
  3. “American Idol” (Wednesday), FOX
  4. “American Idol” (Thursday), FOX
  5. “Survivor: Palau,” CBS
  6. “CSI: Miami,” CBS
  7. NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament: Kentucky vs. Michigan St.
  8. “House,” FOX
  9. “CSI: NY,” CBS
  10. “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” ABC

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