March Madness Viewership, Bracket Participation Poised for Jump in 2023
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Americans’ interest in watching the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament is no longer on a downward trajectory. Instead, U.S. adults’ intent to watch the annual March Madness event, which starts this week, has increased year over year for the first time since 2018, according to a new Morning Consult survey.
About 1 in 4 (23%) Americans also said they plan to fill out a bracket this time, a record high since Morning Consult started tracking interest in the practice in 2017.
Americans’ Interest in Watching March Madness Is Highest Since 2018
Interest in March Madness is up
- More than 1 in 3 adults (35%) said they plan to watch this year’s NCAA men’s tournament, an increase of 6 percentage points from 2022, but not as high as the top mark (43%) from 2017, per Morning Consult’s annual surveys.
- Of the Americans who said they plan to watch March Madness, almost 3 in 5 (58%) said they plan to watch March Madness specifically via cable or satellite TV, a year-over-year decrease of 5 points, while 46% said they plan to watch through a streaming provider, a 16-point surge from a year ago. Respondents were able to select all ways of watching that applied.
- Nearly 1 in 4 adults (23%) said they plan to fill out at least one March Madness bracket ahead of the tournament, a record high since 2017. The figure marks a year-over-year jump of 8 points.
1 in 4 Men's College Basketball Fans Plan to Bet on March Madness
March Madness betting interest sees noticeable jump
- Americans who said they plan to place any bets on individual games or outcomes during the men’s tournament increased 6 points year over year to 14%, the survey found. The increase mirrors survey data released by the American Gaming Association, which expects 68 million Americans to bet on March Madness this year, compared with 45 million in 2022.
- Nearly 1 in 5 self-identified sports fans (18%) said they plan to bet on the men’s tournament, compared with 30% of self-identified “avid” sports fans, 25% of self-identified men’s college basketball fans and 40% of self-identified “avid” men’s college basketball fans.
- Among generations, millennials had the highest interest in betting on March Madness, with about 1 in 4 of the group (24%) saying they plan to wager, followed by Gen Z adults (22%) and Gen Xers (11%).
A season of chaos
This men’s college basketball season has been one of confusion, with blue bloods like Kentucky marred by inconsistent play. Meanwhile, No. 1 preseason team North Carolina, which lost to Kansas in last year’s national championship, failed to even reach this year’s tournament.
First-year Duke head coach Jon Scheyer led the Blue Devils to an Atlantic Coast Conference tournament championship, while Michigan State set a Big Ten record with 25 straight appearances in the NCAA Tournament.
Besides Houston and Alabama, the two favorites to win the national championship according to FanDuel bettings odds, there’s little consensus as to which teams will make deep tournament runs this year. Whatever happens, it appears that America will be tuning in. May the madness continue.
The March 4-5, 2023, survey was conducted among a representative sample of 2,205 U.S. adults, with an unweighted margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points. Surveys for subsequent years were conducted each March, among representative samples of approximately 2,200 U.S. adults each, with margins of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.
Mark J. Burns is a sports analyst on the Industry Intelligence team, where he conducts research, authors analyst notes and advises leaders in the sports industry on how to apply insights to make better business decisions. Before joining Morning Consult, he served as a beat reporter at Sports Business Journal, covering the business of hockey and soccer. Mark graduated from the University of Michigan with a bachelor’s degree in history and holds a Juris Doctor from Belmont University. For speaking opportunities and booking requests, please email [email protected].