Women’s NCAA final sets record with nearly 10M viewers
The women’s NCAA final between Louisiana State University and Iowa drew 9.9 million viewers on average across ABC and ESPN on Sunday, making it the most-watched women’s college basketball game in history.
Why it matters: The game marked the first time the women’s NCAA final aired live on ABC. The viewership success shows there's ample interest in women's sports, especially if they're given a bigger platform.
- At its peak, the game was viewed by 12.6 million viewers, ESPN said.
- The game also marked the most-viewed college event ever on ESPN+, ESPN's streaming service.
Be smart: The viewership numbers show that women's sports can compete with major sporting events from the major men's leagues.
- The NBA Finals averaged 9.89 million viewers on ABC in 2021, Sportico notes.
- Amazon's NFL broadcasts drew 9.58 million viewers per game on average during the 2022 season.
The big picture: U.S. women's sports, particularly soccer and basketball, are becoming a hot investment vehicle for networks.
Yes, but: Despite gains in viewership, women's sports have historically struggled to yield the same types of revenue in media broadcast rights as men's sports.
- A 2021 report found that the NCAA has undervalued women's basketball by over $100 million.
- ESPN currently pays the NCAA roughly $34 million for women’s basketball rights, in conjunction with over two dozen other sports championships rights, as Axios has noted. That deal expires in the 2023-2024 season.
What to watch: The NCAA has hired Endeavor to advise on its next media rights deal, per Sports Business Journal.
- It's considering a major change that would see the unbundling of many of its championships, most notably the women's basketball tournament.
Go deeper: NCAA women's March Madness breaks records