Nielsen: March Madness Viewership Gets A Big Boost From Brackets

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brackets aid March Madness viewership

New research from Nielsen revealed that people watch much more of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament if they also visit sites where they fill out “office pool” brackets.

The data came out before this weekend’s Final Four — part of “March Madness” — and tonight’s national championship game between North Carolina and Villanova.

The data helps reiterate the long-held notion that betting via bracket pools helps drive interest and viewership of the NCAA tournament.

Inside the March Madness data

The report, which came via Nielsen and was commissioned by the American Gaming Association, divulged that Americans who visit sites where you can fill out and track brackets spend 86 more minutes (21%) watching the tournament than those who do not.

People who engaged with bracket sites via a mobile app were even more engaged with the tournament, watching 109 more minutes (36%) more than people who did not visit bracket sites.

AGA earlier estimated that 40 million Americans will wager $2 billion on more than 70 million brackets. A total of $9.2 billion will be bet on March Madness, about 97% of it illegal, according to the AGA. Sports betting is banned in most of the U.S., with the exception of Nevada and limited wagering in a few other states.

The full report from Nielsen and the AGA can be seen here.

“Greater engagement in March Madness – on which Americans bet billions of dollars – significantly increases viewership of the NCAA tournament,” Geoff Freeman, AGA president and CEO, said via a press release. “Despite the current federal prohibition of sports betting, we would expect a similar trend to exist in all sports – the more invested, the more viewership, creating lucrative opportunities for advertisers and broadcasters alike.”

The NCAA and sports betting

The data about March Madness and bracket activity also came just as the NCAA announced that it would consider holding events in places with legal sports betting.

Most notably, that would mean events could be held in Nevada. The NCAA once brokered a deal with Oregon to stop its Sports Action lottery game so that NCAA tournament games could be held in the state.

Just last week, the NCAA reached an agreement with DraftKings and FanDuel to discontinue daily fantasy sports contests based on college football and basketball; the NCAA views DFS as gambling.