Why The NCAA Loves March Madness

By - Reid
03.20.24 08:18 PM

Whether you watch basketball religiously or couldn’t name a single college player, everyone knows about March Madness.

The pinnacle of men’s and women’s college basketball, March Madness brings together 64 teams in a country-wide tournament where one loss means elimination. The high stakes for schools, the Cinderella stories, and the millions (and millions) of betting dollars create the perfect storm for must-watch TV.

When the NCAA discovered just how popular this tournament was, they capitalized on it with lucrative media deals effectively propelling their brand into the stratosphere of sports. While the NCAA is technically a non-profit organization, its operating expenses have ballooned over the past decades through the rise of TV and media rights deals.

For some perspective, the NCAA makes about 1.28 Billion dollars in annual Revenue. $1 Billion comes directly from March Madness, and $945 Million of that 1 Billion comes directly from the broadcast rights.

Without a doubt, the Men’s and Women’s basketball tournaments are integral to the NCAA survival and success, and they know it. With College football spinning their postseason off the CFP (College Football Playoff), basketball remains the sole “revenue generating” sport completely under their control, and they will do everything they can do keep it that way. Much of the money earned from March Madness goes back to the athletic conferences and programs based on their performance, which incentivizes them to continue this arrangement.

Lower Tier tournaments - the NIT and CIT tournaments for men’s and women’s basketball - have been consumed by the NCAA as well in an attempt to grow or diversify this revenue stream, but nothing seems to have the same intrigue as March Madness does.

So, as you start to see more and more ads on on your smart devices for basketball coverage whether you’ve ever watched basketball in your life or not, just know you’re witnessing $1 Billion in market cap at work.