In situations where viewers may be incentivized to switch to a different broadcast, upset victories (especially those featuring close competition throughout) retain viewership effectively over the course of the game.
In order to assess how upsets influence viewership, we analyzed both Average and Minute-to-Minute Viewership from a sample of 14 first-round matchups. This dataset is comprised of 3 million households across 210 DMAs (every designated market area in the contiguous United States).
Both Oral Roberts’ upset of Ohio State and North Texas’ defeat of Purdue stood out as games to explore further, due to two key effects: Viewership Retention and Viewership Growth.
Upsets Retain viewership
Friday Afternoon Slate
Total Viewership Timeline
Ohio State vs. Oral Roberts
DMAs Surrounding Tulsa, OK
Friday Evening Slate
Total Viewership Timeline
2nd Half Viewership
Dallas - Ft. Worth
Within the underdog’s surrounding DMAs, viewership stays relatively stable, as evidenced by Oral Roberts' fans; as a whole, the region’s audience size increased by just 2% on average. This is likely due to most viewers in the area already being tuned in to see how their local team performs.
Historically successful basketball programs such as UNC and Wisconsin draw in significantly higher viewership on a nationwide scale than small schools; however, schools within highly dedicated regions such as Ohio State and Texas Tech also yield above-average viewership within their respective markets.
Audiences who might not otherwise have tuned in become intrigued by the prospect of an upset, prompting them to either turn their TVs on, or transfer over from a concurrent matchup. From the start of the 2nd half through overtime, total viewership tripled during North Texas’ unexpected defeat of Purdue, as viewers increasingly flipped over to witness the legitimacy of the Mean Green’s upset attempt.
Viewers in the top-seeded team’s region are more likely to anticipate an easy victory, and therefore not feel the need to tune in initially. Within the underdog’s surrounding DMAs, viewership stays relatively stable, possibly due to most viewers in the area already watching to see how their local team performs.
Despite being overshadowed by numerous colleges in the greater Dallas area, by the end of North Texas’ upset, viewership in the region had risen by 140%. In doing so, the team managed to draw in above-average viewership in Dallas, the 5th-largest market in the country, where they otherwise likely would have gone unnoticed.