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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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Inside Fox’s Plans for Covering Caitlin Clark’s Regular-Season Finale

  • Iowa–Ohio State will go live to more than 100 million homes on Fox’s main channel Sunday.
  • The net will then livestream Iowa’s Senior Night across YouTube, TikTok, and Fox’s digital platforms.
Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports

Fox plans to go all in on Caitlin Clark’s farewell to college basketball: After broadcasting on the network her final regular-season game at Iowa, against Ohio State on Sunday afternoon, Fox will livestream her postgame Senior Night festivities across YouTube, TikTok, and FoxSports.com, as well as on the Fox Sports app, according to sources with direct knowledge of the strategy. 

Fox is going for maximum viewer reach, nationally televising the 1 p.m. ET game to more than 100 million U.S. TV homes across its broadcast network. The game can also be watched on FoxSports.com and the Fox Sports app. When the contest ends, Fox will switch to NASCAR coverage while livestreaming the emotional postgame interviews and ceremonies surrounding the superstar guard’s final game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. 

The reason for the postgame platform: Clark could have a lot to address. On Thursday she declared for the WNBA draft; on Sunday she’s expected to pass the late Pete Maravich as the NCAA’s all-time scoring leader for men’s or women’s basketball.

It was a no-brainer for Fox to put Clark’s home finale on its so-called “Big Fox” broadcast network. Fox’s nationally televised broadcast of Iowa-Nebraska on Super Bowl Sunday drew 1.77 million viewers, making it the network’s most-watched women’s basketball game. That was more than double the 816,000 viewers for FS1’s cable telecast of Iowa-Illinois on Feb. 25. Season-to-date viewership of women’s college basketball on Fox is up 18% this year, to 784,000 average viewers. Season-to-date viewership for the sport on the FS1 cable network is up 27%, to 146,000 average viewers.

The Senior Night streaming strategy is the latest wrinkle in Fox’s coverage of Clark. During Iowa’s games against Maryland and Nebraska earlier this year, Fox offered viewers a “Caitlin Clark Cam” via TikTok. The alternative ISO Cam followed her every move on offense, then shifted to game action when she was playing defense or on the bench. TikTok’s “Caitlin Cam” drew more than 150,000 live viewers for Iowa-Maryland, and another 800,000 watched highlights on the social service. That was the first time Fox streamed live-game content on TikTok.

Similarly, NBC’s streaming service, Peacock, offered viewers a State Farm–sponsored “Caitlin Cast” during its exclusive streaming of three Hawkeyes games in February, against Michigan, Indiana, and Minnesota. Peacock’s stream of Iowa-Michigan, where Clark broke Kelsey Plum’s collegiate women’s scoring record, was NBCUniversal’s most-streamed women’s college basketball game, according to a spokesperson—but the decision to air that game on Peacock, as opposed to on NBC proper, drew the ire of many across the college basketball landscape. (Fox, notably, does not currently have a streaming service comparable to Peacock.)

The 22-year-old Clark announced on social media Thursday that she’s heading to the WNBA. She could have remained at Iowa for another season by exercising an additional year of eligibility tied to the COVID-19 pandemic, but she decided it was time to turn pro. “While this season is far from over, and we have a lot more goals to achieve, it will be my last one at Iowa,” Clark wrote.

Clark needs just 18 points Sunday to pass Maravich as the NCAA’s all-time scoring leader. The reigning National Player of the Year is currently averaging 32.2 points, 8.7 assists, and 7.4 rebounds per game while leading the Hawkeyes to a 25–4 record and a top-10 ranking.
Meanwhile, the so-called “Caitlin Clark effect” has been driving up ticket prices all season. Clark’s Senior Night matchup against Ohio State is on track to become the most expensive ticket in women’s basketball history, for either college or the WNBA. The get-in price to watch her No. 6 Hawkeyes battle the No. 2 Buckeyes is an eye-popping $491, according to data supplied to Front Office Sports by ticket marketplace TickPick. That beats the $337 for Iowa-Michigan.

Michael McCarthy’s “Tuned In” column is at your fingertips every week with the latest insights and ongoings around sports media. If he hears it, you will, too.

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