ESPN Platforms Set Unparalleled Records with NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball
- National Championship Scores 9.9M Viewers – Most-Viewed Women’s College Basketball Game on Record and Most-Viewed College Basketball Game (Men’s or Women’s) Ever on ESPN Platforms
- Women’s Final Four Weekend Averages 6.5M Average Viewers, Most on Record
- March Madness Up 55% Year Over Year; Every Round Sees Double-Digit Increases
ESPN’s industry leading presentation of NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball scored double- to triple-digit increases during every stage of the 2022-23 season. Sunday’s NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship Presented by Capital One featuring LSU and Iowa drew 9.9 million viewers, making it the most-viewed women’s college basketball game and ESPN platforms’ most-viewed college basketball game (men’s or women’s) on record. The title game, which aired on ABC for the first time, spiked a remarkable 104 percent increase over last year’s finale and was the most-viewed college event ever on ESPN+. The one-hour NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship Special Presented by Capital One preceded the record-shattering showdown, averaging 1.7 million viewers.
The 2023 NCAA Women’s Final Four in Dallas, Texas was ESPN’s most-viewed Final Four weekend on record, averaging 6.5 million viewers. The three-game slate saw an 87 percent increase from 2022’s event in Minneapolis.
The National Semifinals averaged 4.5 million viewers, the most-viewed semifinal round on record on ESPN platforms. The Friday night doubleheader increased 68 percent versus 2022. The much-anticipated Iowa vs. South Carolina matchup attracted 5.6 million viewers, becoming ESPN’s third most-viewed women’s college basketball game on record, and drawing a 74 percent increase from 2022’s late-night window. Eventual national champion LSU’s game against Virginia Tech averaged 3.4 million viewers, ESPN’s most-viewed early National Semifinal on record, and an increase of 60 percent from the early window last year.
The Bird & Taurasi Show, one of multiple Women’s Final Four MegaCast offerings, notched 742,000 viewers for Sunday’s finale.
“The overwhelming success of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament is a testament to the incredible performances by this year’s student athletes,” said Nick Dawson, ESPN vice president of programming. “The record-setting viewership reflects fan appreciation of those performances, as well as the many years of hard work, creative scheduling, promotion and collaboration between the NCAA and ESPN. There are so many individuals who laid the foundation for this moment by pouring their heart and soul into this event for decades. 2023 marks a milestone in the growth of women’s college basketball and all of us at ESPN look forward to working with the NCAA to continue the upward trajectory of the sport and this signature event.”
This year’s Women’s March Madness (59 games) across ESPN platforms averaged 983,000 viewers, up 55 percent over the 2022 tournament. Every round of the championship experienced viewership growth versus 2022, including double-digit increases for the First and Second Rounds, the Sweet 16 and the Elite Eight. Viewers also consumed a record 7.4 billion minutes of women’s college basketball
content throughout the entire championship. Sponsors and advertisers came out in full force as well, with Disney Advertising selling out in-game sponsorship opportunities for the Women’s Basketball Championship for the second year in a row with even more advertisers joining in 2023. This year, 15 sponsors and nearly 100 advertisers activated during the championship, up from 14 and 22, respectively, a year ago.
Viewership success by round:
- Elite Eight: ESPN’s most-viewed Elite Eight round on record, averaging 2.2 million viewers, up 43 percent from 2022
- Sweet Sixteen: ESPN’s most-viewed Sweet 16 on record, averaging 1.2 million, up 73 percent from 2022
- Second Round: ESPN’s most-viewed since 2009, averaging 615,000 viewers, up 30 percent from 2022
- First Round: averaged 257,000 viewers, up 27 percent from 2022
- First Four: averaged 149,000 viewers, up 49% from 2022
ESPN’s coverage of the women’s college basketball regular season was also the most-viewed since 2014-15, averaging 190,000 viewers (83 games), up 11 percent year-over-year. The season’s most-watched regular season game was LSU vs. South Carolina on ESPN, which averaged 1.5 million viewers, making it the most-viewed regular season women’s college basketball game on any network since 2010. ESPN also expanded the College GameDay footprint in women’s basketball by featuring shows at Tennessee ahead of the Lady Vols’ matchup with UConn, Iowa ahead of the Hawkeyes’ showdown with Indiana, an
d at the site of the SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament.