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Megan Durham | | April 8, 2016

Houston, Men’s Final Four set attendance and viewing records

The 2016 NCAA Division I Men’s Final Four set multiple attendance records for the championship and fan events, as well as cable viewership and streaming records.

“This year’s Final Four in Houston will be remembered for many things, including one of the best national championship games in tournament history and the great work done by the Houston Local Organizing Committee,” said Dan Gavitt, NCAA vice president of men’s basketball championships. “This year was particularly special since it marked the first time the NCAA had three host schools – the University of Houston, Rice University and Texas Southern University. Our hosts this year showed the teams and fans Southern hospitality and put on terrific fan events, including youth clinics, the March Madness Music Festival and the Final Four Fan Fest.”

The two-session Final Four attendance totaled 149,845, the second-highest attendance in Men’s Final Four history. The championship game attendance of 74,340 is also the second-highest in championship game history. The semifinals round marked an NRG Stadium attendance record with 75,505 fans. This is the third time that Houston has hosted the Final Four.

“It goes without saying that we are grateful to the NCAA and the Men’s Basketball Committee for entrusting Houston with their crown jewel – the Men’s Final Four. I could not be more proud of how our community responded to this great event. Thank you to our friendly and welcoming volunteers and to the hundreds of committee members that spent the last year planning this event. We could not have done this without you,” said Tony Chase, board chair for the Houston Final Four Local Organizing Committee.

Broadcast/digital viewership

More than ever before, fans tuned in using the NCAA March Madness Live app. Across online platforms, tablets and smart phones, NCAA March Madness Live netted 3.4 million live video streams for the national title game, which resulted in 1.1 million live hours of video consumption, a 16 percent increase over last year and an all-time record for an individual game during the NCAA tournament. With 18.1 million live hours, the tournament also generated more video consumption than any other tournament.

“The Final Four is a uniquely special sporting event, and this year’s tournament treated fans to unpredictable games, including what was perhaps the most exciting national championship game in a generation,” said Joseph R. Castiglione, the director of athletics at the University of Oklahoma and chair of the Division I Men’s Basketball Committee. “Houston did a remarkable job hosting the Final Four teams and families and gave them an experience they will never forget. The games and the ancillary events provided fans from across the nation who came to Houston with memories that will last a lifetime. No matter how many years pass, people will always talk about the 2016 Final Four in Houston, where people came to celebrate student-athletes competing at the highest level of college basketball. ”

Turner Sports’ exclusive presentation of the national championship across TBS, TNT and truTV averaged 17.8 million viewers and a 13.2 household coverage rating/10.6 U.S. household rating. Viewership peaked at an average 22.3 million viewers in the final minutes of the game. The Villanova University-University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, game became the second-most-viewed college basketball game of all time on a cable television network, following only the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s defeat of the University of Kentucky in the 2015 semifinals, which ended Kentucky’s perfect season. The championship game was also the most viewed event of any kind on Sling TV.

Beyond the national reach, ESPN International broadcast the games to 188 countries and territories, marking an increase of eight countries from the previous year.

The national championship game generated 56 million impressions across March Madness social media accounts, up 112 percent over last year. Video consumption for social media was also up with 8 million views overall, more than five times the volume of video for last year’s championship game.

A total of 1,672 credentials were issued to members of the media for the 2016 Final Four.

Team welcome and fan events

The Final Four festivities were kicked off by a unique team welcome at Ellington Air Force Base as Houston welcomed each of the teams to town last Wednesday.  Military personnel from all branches greeted the teams upon their plane’s arrival, handing each player a Final Four Challenge Coin as they boarded their buses for their hotels.  Wounded veterans from the Houston area served as honorary hosts for each team.

The NCAA incorporated a number of enhancements for the student-athletes and their families, including student-athlete lounges; school-specific décor at team hotels and locker rooms; and activities for the family members.

“As we were preparing for this event, we kept telling the NCAA that Houston is a city that loves big events,” said Doug Hall, president of the Local Organizing Committee. “And fortunately, we were right. The community responded in great numbers and with lots of enthusiasm for the various events. The NCAA men’s basketball committee has been a great partner in the planning of this event and we are very pleased that their championship was showcased in such a positive manner in our city.”

The Final Four weekend, enhanced by great weather, included a myriad of fan events supported by the local Houston community.  Final Four Fan Fest presented by Capital One at the George R. Brown Convention Center had more than 300,000 square feet of interactive games, sports and activities and was attended by 55,486 fans, which was a significant increase from the 2011 Final Four in Houston. 

The three-day March Madness Music Festival at Discovery Green attracted 165,000 fans and reached maximum capacity on both Saturday and Sunday.  Performances by Panic! At the Disco, Fall Out Boy, Jason Derulo, Kendrick Lamar, Twenty One Pilots, Flo Rida, Pitbull, Maroon 5 and others proved to make it one of the most popular events that the Final Four brought to town. It  ranks as the second-most-attended Music Festival in Final Four history.

Tip-Off Tailgate presented by Infiniti and held at NRG Stadium saw 66,259 fans in attendance as many came out to the stadium property to enjoy the sunny weather as well as performances by Barenaked Ladies and Pat Green ahead of the games on Saturday and Monday.

Reese’s Final Four Friday, which featured open team practices and Reese’s College All-Star Game, topped 2011’s attendance numbers with a total of 19,200 fans, including close to 1,000 students from the 2016 Final Four host institutions and 7,438 Houston Independent School District elementary students.

On Saturday, April 2, Houstonians and out-of-town guests helped break a record with 2,200 runners at the Final Four 4 Miler, the largest fun run to date for the Final Four weekend, which began and ended at Houston City Hall. 

Sunday, April 3, saw 3,400 children and their families at the Final Four Dribble fueled by POWERADE.  North Carolina alum and former guard for the Houston Rockets, Kenny Smith, along with Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and marching bands from Atherton Elementary School and Waltrip High School, led the children from Houston City Hall into Fan Fest.

Community impact

Through its partnerships with Lowe’s, Connor Sports and Spalding, the NCAA renovated and revitalized the Jim and Barbara Morefield Boys & Girls Club. The work included a new basketball court, new baskets, wall padding and bleachers as part of the NCAA Legacy Restorations presented by Lowe’s.

Various youth programs impacted more than 12,000 children, including the Read to the Final Four program, NCAA POWERADE Youth Clinics and Dribble fueled by POWERADE. The Read to the Final Four program began with more than 6,800 Houston Independent School District students participating in a reading challenge bracket, culminating with the crowning of the champion school, Dogan Elementary, at Reese’s Final Four Friday. With more than 9.1 million minutes read from all 68 schools participating, the Final Four winning schools received a cash prize and the Most Valuable Reader from each of the 68 participating schools received a free bicycle from Cycle Houston.

As Houston is home to the second-largest veterans population in the country, the NCAA and the Houston Local Organizing Committee worked on a veterans initiative, hosting several days of service within the Houston community. Partnering with veterans’ service organizations, such as The Mission Continues and the Lone Star Veterans Association, the committee refurbished a 97-year-old YMCA, renovated three local veterans homes and donated $40,000 to the Lone Star Veterans Association with proceeds from the Final Four 4 Miler.

More than 3,500 volunteers were active throughout Final Four week, greeting fans at airports, assisting with transportation, helping with Fan Fest activities, manning information centers at hotels and guiding guests through the various events around town.

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