NCAA Tournament 2013: Opening Thursday draws best ratings in 22 years

USA TODAY Sports

CBS and the networks of Turner Sports combined to have an excellent first day of traditional NCAA Tournament

People were adequately prepared to partake in America's favorite annual marathon sports ritual, as March Madness premiered to great ratings.

CBS, TNT, TBS and TruTV averaged a 5.8 overnight rating, according to a CBS press release. That marks the best overnight rating for this day of the tournament since 1991, back when the tournament still aired entirely on CBS. Yesterday's coverage was up four percent (5.6) from the comparable coverage in 2012.

Coverage on the four networks was broken down into four "timeslots", with ratings averaging as follows in each:

1. Noon-4:15 p.m. ET: 4.1/14 (up five percent from 2012)

2. 2:30-7:15 p.m. ET: 5.5/15 (up six percent)

3. 7-10:15 p.m. ET: 7.4/14 (up nine percent)

4. 9:30 p.m. - 12:45 a.m. ET: 6.4/11 (down six percent)

The 2:30-7:15 and 7-10:15 timeslots set ratings records for the NCAA Tournament.

Including the First Four, CBS and the Turner networks are averaging a 5.2 overnight for the NCAA Tournament. That marks a two percent increase through the first three days of the 2012 Tourney.

UPDATE: Viewership is in for the opening Thursday of the tournament as well, and it is also the best since 1991. An average of 8.1 million viewers watched games on CBS, TNT, TBS and TruTV yesterday. Overall, through three days, this is the most-watched tourney since 1993, and an average of 7.4 million people have watched the First Four and opening Thursday. That's up seven percent from last year (6.9 million).

More in College Basketball:

Friday’s NCAA Tournament TV schedule

March Madness: Thursday's scores, updates, GIFs and more

Printable bracket for March Madness

Chasing Cinderella: Iona's inspiring run

An oral history of Bryce Drew's epic buzzer-beater

Full coverage of March Madness

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