Record-Breaking 14.2 Million Viewers for Historic Women’s Basketball Win

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It was another feather in the cap for women’s basketball on the night of the prestigious women’s Final Four. The thrilling 71-69 triumph of Iowa over UConn not only echoed across the basketball court in Bristol, Connecticut, but it also resonated with a record-breaking audience.

An average of 14.2 million enthusiasts watched the gripping match on ESPN, crowning it the most-viewed women’s basketball showdown ever documented. It also marked the game as ESPN’S highest-rated basketball broadcast ever, showcasing the ever-growing fascination for women’s basketball among sports lovers.

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In comparison, the previous women’s basketball viewership record stood at a commendable 12.3 million for the Iowa-LSU game in Elite Eight last Monday. Until now, ESPN’s most-watched basketball broadcast featured Cleveland and Boston’s Game 7 clash in the 2018 Eastern Conference finals, attracting 13.51 million viewers.

This victory for Iowa doesn’t just mark a success within the realm of basketball. Across multiple sports excluding college football and the NFL, it’s one of the most-watched games in recent years. For instance, last year’s NCAA men’s title game between San Diego State and UConn only slightly outperformed it with an average of 14.79 million viewers.

The exhilarating Hawkeyes game, reaching a peak audience of 17 million, is likely to secure a spot among the top 50 primetime telecasts of 2024. Last year, it would have been placed 32nd on the list. Outside of the football domain, it recorded ESPN’s second-largest audience, only second to the United States-Portugal match during the 2014 men’s World Cup that averaged 18.22 million viewers.

To find a match where an NBA game attracted a similar viewership, one has to recall Golden State’s title-clinching victory over Boston in Game 6 of the 2022 NBA Finals (14.22 million).

But ESPN’s viewership gold-streak extends beyond one game. Clark’s five March Madness games on ESPN and ABC have averaged 8.3 million viewers. The champion Hawkeyes are now set to face South Carolina for the coveted national championship on a Sunday afternoon on ABC.

South Carolina’s recent 78-59 win over North Carolina State too reached nearly 7.1 million viewers, making it the third most-watched women’s national semifinal ever since such records were first kept in 1992. Surpassing that viewership, a record remains etched in history for the most-watched semifinal, Stanford vs. Virginia on CBS in 1992 pulling in 8.1 million viewers.

The attraction to women’s basketball isn’t an anomaly. On Friday, the two games combined yielded an impressive average of 10.8 million viewers, marking a striking 138% increase over the previous year. As such, the numbers usher in another era of triumph for women’s basketball.