Interest in last year’s NCAA college basketball March Madness tournament understandably bumped up with the return to a normal format in multiple cities and fans back in the stands. With schools punching their tickets to this year’s Big Dance steadily throughout this week, what does interest look like as we prepare for the 2023 edition of the NCAA Tournament?

Tournament interest is on the decline following increase in 2022.

According to the latest data from CivicScience, the percentage of Americans who plan to follow the games ‘very closely’ this year is down slightly from last year to 10%. Additionally, the number of people who have expressed an interest in following the tournament at least  ‘somewhat closely’ has decreased by five percentage points, falling to 21%. Consequently, the percentage of people who report they’ll follow the games ‘not at all closely’ has increased to 68%. 

TV Broadcasts are the dominant choice for March Madness 2023 viewing.

For individuals who intend to watch the tournament this year, the majority (68%) plan to utilize TV broadcasts (on CBS, TBS, and TNT primarily) as their primary source of viewing.

However, traditional TV broadcasting is not the exclusive means of viewing the tournament, as various streaming options are also available. Fourteen percent of tournament viewers say they’ll use one of those streaming services, such as Hulu (via Hulu+ Live), Paramount+, or Sling TV. A much smaller percentage of viewers report they’ll turn to a mobile app or tablet, accounting for only 6% of viewers.

Filling out brackets for a tournament pool or challenge is a popular ritual come NCAA tournament time – ESPN collected 17.3 million brackets last year. Given the drop in watching interest, however, it’s unsurprising to see interest in filling out a bracket to participate in a tournament pool also down for this year. That being said, the drop is not as significant, only down a single percentage point since 2022 (from 16% to 15%), so it bears watching what kind of effect this will have on how many brackets sites like ESPN collect this time around.

More March Madness facts from the data:

  • Millennials aged 25-34 and the 55+ crowd are the most likely age groups to follow March Madness festivities at least ‘somewhat closely,’ with both at 32%.
  • Speaking of Millennials, they’re also the most likely to participate in an NCAA tournament pool this year (18%), more than double that of Gen Z adults aged 18-24, of whom 7% plan to participate in a tournament pool.
  • Of the ‘big 4’ professional sports leagues (MLB, NBA, NFL, and NHL), 70% of NBA fans will follow the tournament at least ‘somewhat closely,’ while 48% of NFL fans will do the same, the lowest percentage of fans among the four leagues.

Many more tournament spots are still to be determined, which should give potential viewers a better idea of their interest as Selection Sunday approaches. Want to stay in tune with the latest in sports industry insights like these as they evolve? Let’s chat.