The heroics of sharp-shooting Hawkeye Caitlin Clark drew monster TV numbers for ESPN’s telecast of Iowa vs. South Carolina on Friday night.
Iowa’s 77-73 win over defending national champion South Carolina averaged 5.5 million viewers, up 72% from last year’s comparable NCAA women’s basketball Final Four game.
That made it the most-watched women’s semifinal ever – easily blowing past the 3.76 million viewers for the Baylor vs. Stanford Final Four matchup in 2012.
The Hawkeyes vs. Gamecocks peaked at 6.6 million viewers, according to Nielsen Fast Nationals.
Friday night’s semifinal even topped last year’s women’s national championship game between South Carolina and Connecticut, which averaged 4.85 million viewers.
With Clark pouring in 41 points against the Gamecocks, ESPN came close to topping the two most-watched women’s college basketball games ever.
Those were both national championship games, not semifinals, featuring Diana Taurasi and the legendary UConn dynasty.
Taurasi, Sue Bird, and Swin Cash drew 5.7 million viewers for their win over Oklahoma in 2002.
Two years later, Taurasi’s Huskies nearly topped their record, drawing 5.6 million viewers for their win over Tennessee in the women’s final. Iowa vs South Carolina pulled nearly one million more viewers than the NBA All-Star game’s 4.6 million average viewers.
ESPN’s earlier telecast of LSU’s win over Virginia Tech also drew a big number. The telecast averaged 3.4 million viewers, up 57%, and was ESPN’s most-watched early semifinal on record.
ESPN’s twin telecast of Iowa-South Carolina and LSU-Virginia Tech Rank as the two most-watched women’s college basketball games ever on ESPN+.
Anticipation is building for ABC’s Sunday afternoon telecast of the women’s national championship game between Iowa and LSU, pitting Clark vs. Tigers star Angel Reese. The game will have broader distribution on ESPN’s sister Disney broadcast network ABC (3:30 pm ET).