Saturday September 30, 2023

ESPN Will Air 2023 Division I Women’s Championship Game on ABC 

  • The women’s March Madness championship game will air on ABC for the first time.
  • The decision follows major ratings growth for the entire tournament.
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This past year, ESPN provided its “most expansive” coverage of the NCAA Division I women’s basketball tournament than ever, from March Madness branding to a Final Four simulcast with Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi.

Now, they’re taking that investment a step further by airing the 2023 championship game on ABC for the first time. The game is set for 3 p.m. ET on Sunday, April 4.

“Scheduling the Division I Women’s Basketball Championship on ABC has been a goal for quite some time,” Burke Magnus, ESPN’s president of programming and original content, said in a statement. “Women’s NCAA Championships continue to generate strong audiences across the ABC/ESPN networks and this move represents yet another unique opportunity to showcase this marquee event.”

The 2022 women’s championship saw major ratings increases from 2021 — the only other comparable year, given that 2021 was the first time the entire tournament aired on national networks.

  • The 2022 championship drew an average of 4.85 million viewers, 18% more than 2021 and the most-watched since 2004. 
  • The Final Four saw a 20% ratings increase from 2021.
  • The tournament saw a 16% increase in ratings from the previous year.

ESPN previously announced that women’s Selection Sunday will again air in prime time on ESPN on Sunday, March 12. It was aired in this slot this year and saw a 160% increase in viewership from 2021.

The announcement could be part of ESPN’s strategy to maintain rights to the women’s tournament in the next round of negotiations.

A few days ago, the Big Ten announced a historic media contract that did not include ESPN. Without the Big Ten, sources told Front Office Sports that ESPN’s next priority is making sure it can keep the rights to NCAA Championships, and in particular the ever-growing women’s basketball tournament.

ESPN’s current contract with the NCAA bundles 29 championships for an average of $34 million a year. A gender equity report found that women’s March Madness alone could be worth $81-$112 million annually by 2025, when a new contract would be implemented.

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