• Loading stock data...
Sunday, April 21, 2024
  • -
  • -
  • -
  • -

Milestone Missed: Caitlin Clark Broke a Record. NBC Blew an Opportunity

  • NBC skipped an opportunity to put women’s college basketball history in front of hundreds of millions of homes.
  • The choice to air Iowa-Michigan on Peacock may be good for shareholders, but it was bad for women’s college basketball.
Caitlin Clark
The Des Moines Register

On Thursday night, Iowa’s Caitlin Clark broke the NCAA women’s basketball scoring record where fans wanted: at home in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. But on TV, the historic moment for Clark, the Hawkeyes, and women’s college basketball was in the wrong place. 

The Michigan-Iowa matchup was aired exclusively on Peacock, NBCUniversal’s streaming platform. The network provided top-level coverage of Clark, from a prime-time broadcast to a “Caitlin Clark cam” altcast—but it was all behind a paywall. 

For years, major broadcasters have eschewed women’s sports, including women’s college basketball, claiming that the product wasn’t profitable. But the second a network—in this case, NBC—realized the women’s game was lucrative, it opted to maximize shareholder value (by boosting its streaming platform) over providing nationwide visibility to a once-in-a-lifetime moment for the sport. 

If NBC had moved the game to its main network, it would have been available in front of hundreds of millions of homes. Instead, just 30 million Peacock subscribers had access.

NBC had several reasons for keeping the game on its streamer, as Front Office Sports’ Eric Fisher laid out yesterday. (1) The network had contractual obligations with the Big Ten to put the game on Peacock. (2) It was faced with the reality that reruns of Law & Order, slated to be shown on the main network, might have been bigger draws; plus, there’s pressure to prop up NBC’s return to scripted entertainment following a season of strikes. (3) And, like with the Chiefs-Dolphins game, Comcast executives hoped the momentous occasion would drive extra subscribers to a streaming platform that has struggled to be profitable. 

From a business perspective, sure: Chiefs-Dolphins drew 23 million viewers, a streaming record, and enticed 2.8 million people to subscribe to Peacock leading up to the game (though it’s unclear how many of them will stick around). If nothing else, NBC’s insistence in using the Iowa game as a business draw is further proof of the value of women’s college basketball. 

But Clark’s record was much bigger than a streaming draw. Unlike an NFL playoff game—or Law & Order reruns—there’s no guarantee when, if ever, a milestone like this will be available for purchase by any broadcaster, as the record was last broken in 2017, when Kelsey Plum played for Washington. 

In prioritizing its bottom line, NBC lost two indirect but valuable media opportunities. It could have switched the game to linear television and showed a commitment to elevating women’s college basketball—a claim that all the major networks, from ESPN to Fox, appear interested in making. And the buzz around the record undoubtedly drew the attention of new fans, who could have been introduced to the women’s game for the first time if they had easy access. Plus, there’s no doubt the ratings (which haven’t come in yet) would’ve been much better if the game had been broadcast on NBC proper.

Perhaps when the numbers come in, executives—and Comcast shareholders—will see a major win. But for women’s college hoops, it was ultimately a missed opportunity. 

If you didn’t watch Clark’s performance and want to watch her next Thursday against No. 14 Indiana, you better get your credit card out. That game will also air exclusively on Peacock.

Copy Link
Link Copied
Link Copied

What to Read

Everything You Need To Know About the Legal Attempts To Kill the ACC

Four lawsuits involving the conference, Clemson, and FSU could determine the future.

Stanley Cup-Keeper Miragh Bitove is Ready to Protect the Hardware

To safeguard what may be the most-recognizable trophy in all of sports, she’s never more than an arm’s length away from the precious metal.

A Bare-Knuckle Fighter Won His Pro Debut. The Far Right Scored a Marketing Win

With Proud Boys sponsoring him, experts say extremist groups will use his success to elevate their ideologies and recruit new believers.

Nike Cuts Over 700 Jobs In Second Phase of Layoffs

“Nike’s always at our best when we’re on the offense,” the company says.
podcast thumbnail mobile
Front Office Sports Today

Why Ian Rapoport Lives for the NFL Draft’s Chaos


Featured Today

Women’s Basketball Finally Has a TV Deal to Match the Excitement. Now What?

A lucrative new media-rights contract could rectify problems of the past, but the future of March Madness media rights is anyone’s guess.
Mar 16, 2024; Washington, D.C., USA; North Carolina State Wolfpack forward DJ Burns Jr. (30) cuts the net after defeating the North Carolina Tar Heels for the ACC Conference Championship at Capital One Arena.
April 6, 2024

How Two College Seniors Helped DJ Burns Cash In on a Final Four Run

Two college seniors are facilitating deals for NC State’s big man.
Mar 31, 2024; Portland, OR, USA; NCAA officials measure the three point line while coaches from the Texas Longhorns and NC State Wolfpack watch with referees in the finals of the Portland Regional of the NCAA Tournament at the Moda Center center.
April 1, 2024

NCAA Has No One to Blame for Latest Women’s March Madness Transgressions

NCAA is still making avoidable mistakes three years after a complete overhaul.
Nov 16, 2015; Bloomington, IN, USA; General view of the championship banners at Assembly Hall prior to the game between Austin Peay and Indiana.
March 31, 2024

How to Make It in Basketball: Become a Manager at Indiana

Inside the Hoosiers’ unglamorous, profoundly rewarding incubator for basketball’s biggest names.


Powered By

Careers in Sports

Looking for a new job? Check out these featured listings and search for openings all over the world.
Live Nation
Multiple - USA Careers
Multiple - USA Careers
Multiple - USA Careers
Dec 27, 2023; San Diego, CA, USA; USC Trojans wide receiver Kyron Hudson (10) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Louisville Cardinals during the first half at Petco Park.

Hearings Have Concluded in the Pivotal USC Athlete Employment Case. What’s Next?

The potentially landmark labor case could end the NCAA amateurism model.
April 19, 2024

Memphis and FedEx Strike Unique Corporate NIL Deal For $25 Million

The logistics company has a long-standing relationship with the university.
April 19, 2024

Players Accused of Sexual Misconduct Can Still Compete, Feds Say

New Title IX rules ban suspending accused athletes until a school investigation occurs.

Rapid Returns: How Technology Is Getting You Back to Your Seat

How Oracle’s POS technology is helping fans get back to their seats faster.
April 17, 2024

NCAA Made Empty Threats to Jim Harbaugh over Lawyer’s Twitter Posts

The attorney kept criticizing the NCAA on social media after the October warning.
April 11, 2024

‘Nothing Is Off the Table’: New AAC Commissioner Isn’t Afraid of the Controversial Ideas

Tim Pernetti told reporters he’s specifically interested in private equity—and didn’t rule out athlete employment or unionization models.
April 10, 2024

Deion Sanders: NFL Teams Manipulate Draft Positions

Coach Prime joined ‘Front Office Sports Today’ to discuss the state of college football.
April 10, 2024

Stanford’s Tara VanDerveer Retires With ACC Move Looming

She set the all-time coaching record with 1,216 wins.