Women’s college basketball had its moment during March Madness, shattering one record after another. But even the NCAA and the Walt Disney Co.’s ESPN probably did not expect the huge TV audience they attracted for Sunday’s Iowa vs. LSU women’s final.
ESPN’s telecast of the Tigers’ 102-85 win over the Hawkeyes averaged 9.9 million viewers. The duel between Iowa’s Caitlin Clark and LSU’s Angel Reese rewrote the record books.
- The game was easily the most-watched women’s college basketball game on record, topping the 5.7 million viewers for Connecticut vs. Oklahoma that had held the record since 2002.
- Viewership was up 103% from last year’s women’s final between eventual champion South Carolina and Connecticut. The telecast peaked at a whopping 12.6 million viewers.
- It was the most-viewed college event ever on the ESPN+ streaming platform for men’s and women’s sports.
- The 9.9 million average topped marquee men’s events, such as this year’s Alabama vs. Kansas State in the Sugar Bowl (9.1 million viewers) and Tennessee vs. Clemson in the Orange Bowl (8.6 million viewers).
TV viewers normally tune out blowouts. But the drama leading up to this year’s women’s final overrode the lopsided score, the early tipoff time (3:45 pm), and complaints about poor officiating.
In fact, the online debate about the whistle-happy refs, Clark’s phantom technical foul, and Reese’s alleged taunting only added to the interest. The game was trending all afternoon and into Monday on Twitter.
Clark and Iowa’s previous Final Four over South Carolina previously set the record for the most-watched women’s semifinal.