Roku Scored Big at Final Four March Madness

As a leading gateway linking consumers with streaming video on the television, Roku April 7 disclosed final data from the just-concluded NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament that saw TV streaming reach increase by 86.6% and hours watched increase by 75.4% compared with 2019.

By comparison, nearly 60% of 2019 traditional linear TV tournament viewers on Roku did not return to traditional TV to watch in 2021. The tournament is the latest example of consumers opting to view live sports via streaming after a pandemic induced pause.

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Roku tracked domestic households using a branded Internet-connected television that streamed channels carrying tournament games during time of gameplay. The reach of national semifinal viewing of UCLA vs. Gonzaga and Baylor vs. Houston via TV streaming skyrocketed 86.2% since 2019, while hours viewing increased by 86.1%. Streaming households also saw younger viewers as 80.4% of TV streaming was by people between the ages of 18 and 49.

“Nearly six out of 10 traditional linear-TV viewers did not return to watch this year’s [March Madness] on traditional TV. This is the latest example of the transformation shift occurring in TV viewing behavior,” Kristina Shepard, national brand team lead at Roku, said in a statement. “What we’re seeing is reflective of a change taking place across all the major sports as they returned from a pandemic induced pause. Marketers looking to continue reaching mass audiences through live sports must shift their focus towards TV streaming.”

Indeed, through the Final Four (April 3), traditional linear-TV viewers over the age of 18 declined about 23%, while 25% of all traditional linear-TV viewers of the tournament in 2019 streamed games in 2021 on Roku devices.

Not surprisingly, the higher the seed of the team in a school’s television market, the higher the percentage of households that tuned in.

Spokane, Wash., home to Gonzaga, the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament, saw 46.6% of households stream via Roku connected device. Waco-Temple-Bryan, Texas (home to Baylor, the No. 2 overall seed in the tournament) saw 26.5%; followed by University of Houston (a regional two-seed) at 22.9%; while Los Angeles (UCLA, an 11-seed) tracked 19.5%.

The average Spokane household watched 13 hours through the Final Four, an increase of 3.25 hours per household in 2019. Los Angeles households watched an average of 7.2 hours, up 1.8 hours per household from 2019.

The average Spokane household watched 54 more minutes of the UCLA/Gonzaga game vs the average Los Angeles household (in spite of a very close game that ended with a three-point shot in overtime). Los Angeles viewers tuned out more than their Spokane rivals after the ending: 18.4% of Los Angeles households that watched the game tuned out five minutes after Gonzaga’s game-winning shot; 7.4% of Spokane households tuned out during the same period. Finally, 44.7% of Spokane households tuned out when all coverage ended vs. 21.6% of LA households.


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