NCAA women’s basketball final breaks record with 18.7m viewers

credit: Shutterstock
credit: Shutterstock

The 2024 NCAA Women’s Division 1 basketball tournament has proven to be a resounding success for the growth of women’s basketball. 

Last Sunday’s NCAA women’s National Championship game broke the record for the most-watched college women’s basketball game since 1992, which saw South Carolina claim its third national championship after a 87-75 victory over Iowa

The national championship game averaged an 18.7 million viewership, with ESPN revealing that the game peaked at 24 million viewers. 

These figures were 285% higher than the 2022 national championship final and the 2024 final subsequently became the most-watched basketball game on US TV since 2019.  

ESPN Chairman, Jimmy Pitaro, stated: “With a record-setting audience of 18.7 million viewers, Sunday’s Iowa-South Carolina title game was a fitting finale to the most-viewed ever NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament. 

“These exceptional athletes, coaches and teams captured our attention in unprecedented ways and it’s incumbent on all of us to keep the incredible momentum going.”

Ratings for this year’s NCAA women’s March Madness have been significantly higher than those of previous years, which has been attributed to the popularity of Iowa’s Caitlin Clark

The Hawkeyes guard, despite losing in this year’s final, set records for the most-watched game of the tournament everytime she stepped on the court, from the first round, right through to the national championship final. 

Iowa’s victory over last year’s champions LSU in the Elite Eight broke the record at the time for the most-watched women’s college basketball game, averaging 12 million viewers, before Clark’s involvement in the final went on to break this record once again. 

After serving a four-year stint at Iowa, where she became the all-time points leader in NCAA women’s basketball history, Clark is now heading to the draft, which bodes well for the Women’s National Basketball Association’s (WNBA) commercial prospects. 

Clark has been hailed as already one of, if not the greatest women’s college basketball players of all time, and her projected number one pick status at the draft on 15 April has the WNBA already preparing for superstar arrival. 

The Indiana Fever, who hold the first overall pick in this year’s WNBA draft, is widely expected to pick Clark. The Fever’s opening game opponents, the Las Vegas Aces, have recognised Clark’s soaring commercial appeal, moving its opening day game on 2 July to a larger venue to accommodate the growing interest in Clark and women’s basketball. 

If Clark can translate her abilities from the college to the professional game, the WNBA and women’s basketball as a whole, may be on the verge of a new boom period.

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