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Saturday, March 2, 2024

Women’s Basketball National Title Game Still Won’t Get Primetime Treatment

  • The 2024 Championship Game will be on ABC for a second straight year, but will still not be in primetime.
  • The 2023 edition between LSU and Iowa was by far the most-watched women’s college basketball game of all time.
LSU Lady Tigers guard Jasmine Carson dribbles the ball against Iowa Hawkeyes guard Caitlin Clark in the first half during the final round of the Women's Final Four NCAA tournament at the American Airlines Center.
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN has released its plans to cover the 2024 Women’s Final Four in Cleveland — and it’s still far from ideal.

The Women’s Final Four will air on ESPN at 7 p.m. ET and 9:30 p.m. ET on Friday, April 5, followed by the National Championship Game on Sunday, April 7 at 3 p.m. ET on ABC. ESPN will release its full schedule for the 2023-24 women’s college basketball season next week.

While parent company Disney is maintaining its plan to broadcast the National Championship on its ABC network for the second consecutive year, it’s also keeping the early tipoff instead of moving the contest up to primetime.

This is despite the 2023 telecast averaging 9.9 million viewers to become by far the most-watched women’s college basketball game of all time. 

Disney also saw proof of concept when it aired the 2023 WNBA All-Star Game on ABC in primetime to an audience of 850,000 — the most-watched edition of the game in 16 years.

Regardless, ESPN continues to invest in the women’s game: In September, the media company announced it would televise the entire Women’s Basketball Invitational Tournament — essentially, the women’s version of the NIT — on its platforms. Most of the tournament will air on ESPN+, with the semifinals on ESPNU and the finals on ESPN2. 

With another strong showing, ESPN could be looking to renew its media rights deal for Women’s March Madness, which will be up for grabs in 2025; the next round of negotiations could fetch as much as $112 million per year.

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