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Record-Breaking Viewership for Women's College Basketball
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By Associated Press
Published 3 weeks ago on
April 3, 2024

Iowa's 94-87 victory over LSU in the Elite Eight of the women's NCAA Tournament on Monday night averaged 12.3 million viewers, making it the most-watched men’s or women’s college basketball game ever on ESPN. (AP/Mary Altaffer)

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Caitlin Clark can claim another record — the most-watched women’s college basketball game in history.

Iowa’s 94-87 victory over LSU in the Elite Eight of the women’s NCAA Tournament on Monday night averaged 12.3 million viewers on ESPN, according to Nielsen. That makes it one of the most-viewed games in any sport other than NFL football over the past year.

Iowa-LSU outdrew all but one of the five games in last year’s NBA Finals, along with the clinching game of last year’s World Series (11.48 million).

Clark scored 41 points as the Hawkeyes avenged last year’s loss to the Tigers in the national championship game.

Surpassing Previous Records

The viewership surpassed the 11.84 million who watched the 1983 NCAA championship game between Southern California and Louisiana Tech. LSU coach Kim Mulkey played for Louisiana Tech and was matched up against USC great Cheryl Miller in that game, which the Trojans won 64-58.

It was also the most-watched men’s or women’s college basketball game ever on ESPN, more than doubling the prior largest audience.

According to ESPN, the 2002 women’s national championship game between UConn and Oklahoma had the old mark at 5.68 million. ESPN’s most-watched men’s game was the 2008 regular-season matchup between Duke and North Carolina, which drew 5.61 million.

Comparing to Men’s NCAA Tournament

Only one men’s NCAA Tournament game this year had bigger viewership: North Carolina State’s win over Duke on Sunday in the men’s Elite Eight on CBS averaged 15.1 million.

According to Sports Media Watch, it was the most-viewed basketball game on ESPN since Game 7 of the 2018 Eastern Conference finals, when the Cleveland Cavaliers’ victory over the Boston Celtics averaged 13.6 million.

UConn’s 80-73 win over Southern California, which was on after the Iowa game, was the second-most watched college game in ESPN history at 6.7 million. ABC had both regional finals on Sunday, with South Carolina averaging 3.1 million in its win over Oregon State and North Carolina State drawing 2.5 million against Texas.

Clark’s March Madness Games

Clark’s four March Madness games on ESPN and ABC have averaged 6.83 million. Iowa will face UConn in Friday’s second national semifinal on ESPN. The winner will face either South Carolina or North Carolina State on ABC on Sunday.

The Hawkeyes’ 89-68 win over Colorado in Saturday’s regional semifinal averaged 6.9 million viewers on ABC.

Iowa’s last five televised games have surpassed 3 million viewers, including the last three that have drawn at least 4.9 million.

The 60 women’s tournament games are averaging 1.5 million, a 127% increase over last year.

LSU’s Victory Over UCLA

LSU’s victory over UCLA on Saturday, which preceded the Iowa game, averaged 3.8 million, the second most-watched Sweet 16 game on record.

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