After last year’s cancelation, the 2021 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament made a triumphant return via TV streaming. Through data provided by Roku for this year’s Sweet 16 and Elite Eight, nearly 6 out of 10 traditional linear TV viewers (59%) did not return to watch the tournament via traditional TV, while TV streaming rose by 88%. The hours fans spent streaming drastically went up by 89%.
Compared to the 2019 tournament, the audience reach for TV streaming skyrocketed by 95% and 90% for the Sweet 16, and Eight Eight, respectively. With the audience shifting to streaming, Roku’s data shows that there was a shift in age too. This year, streaming households are over 14% more likely to contain someone between 18 and 24 than they were during 2019’s tournament. It isn’t just younger people turning to streaming this year, as households containing someone 65+ are over 22% more likely to watch March Madness through streaming services than they were in 2019.
Roku’s data shows that 59% of Roku households that watched any of the rounds through the Elite Eight have not watched any of this year’s tournament games on traditional linear TV. Unlike streaming, traditional linear TV saw a decline of 24% of viewers over the age of 18 through the Elite Eight. Compared to the 2019 tournament, the audience reach for the Sweet 16, and the Elite Eight was 34%, and 32%, respectively. Non-streamers watched fewer games and hours of this year’s tournament with 6.5 games and 5.1 hours, compared to 6.66 games and 4.5 hours through the 2019 Elite Eight.
“After a year without the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, fans were eager to welcome the games back and they did so through TV streaming,” says Kristina Shepard, National Brand Team Lead at Roku, “The overwhelming viewership turnout we’re seeing on TV streaming truly showcases that streaming not only delivers audiences at scale, but it has become the preferred way for fans watch live sport events. Understanding and acting on this undeniable shift in viewership towards TV streaming is critical for brands looking to engage with audiences during tentpole cultural moments.”