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NCAA Tournament TV Ratings Are Best in 18 Years Before Semis

Television ratings for the college basketball men’s tournament are the best since 1993 in the first year of a new broadcast accord between CBS Sports and Turner Sports.

The overall tournament average for games on CBS Corp.’s CBS network and Time Warner Inc.’s TBS, TNT and truTv is 6.8 percent of households in the top 56 U.S. television markets, the networks said in a news release, citing Nielsen Media Research. That’s 15 percent higher than the 5.9 rating the National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament earned in 2010, when CBS was the sole rights-holder.

CBS and Turner agreed last April on a 14-year, $10.8 billion contract for broadcast, Internet and wireless rights on the tournament, which this year expanded to 68 teams from 65. The networks combined to show all 16 games in their entirety the initial Thursday and Friday of the tournament for the first time.

CBS will air the semifinals and final, which are being held in Houston. In one of the April 2 semifinals, the University of Kentucky will face the University of Connecticut, and Butler University will take on Virginia Commonwealth University in the other matchup.

The national title game is April 4.

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