CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Coverage of North Carolina's 83-76 win at No. 1 ranked Duke on March 4 set a record for the largest audience for a men's college basketball in ESPN history (more than 26 years), according to Nieslen Media Research.
It was also the fourth most-watched basketball game ¬ men's or women's, college or pro ¬ in ESPN history. The game, which was featured live on both ESPN (traditional coverage) and ESPN2 (from "Above the Rim" camera) as part of the new Full Circle initiative, was seen by an average of 3.78 million households on the two networks combined. Every other ESPN entity also covered the game for Full Circle; however, the Nielsen numbers only reflect ESPN and ESPN2's audience.
Some additional noteworthy facts:
ESPN's single network coverage garnered a 3.5 rating, the network's
highest-rated men's college basketball game in more than four years (Maryland at Duke posted a 3.5 in Jan. 2002). ESPN2's "Above the Rim" coverage generated a 0.7 rating, 40% higher than the network's per-game season average.
The previous high for a men's college basketball audience was 3.44
million homes for the 1990 NCAA Tournament game between Princeton and Arkansas.