ESPN Platforms Deliver Unprecedented Viewership Success During NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Season

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ESPN Platforms Deliver Unprecedented Viewership Success During NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Season

  • National Championship Scores Impressive 18.9 Million Viewers, The Most-Viewed College Basketball Game (Men’s or Women’s) on ESPN Platforms
  • Most-Viewed Women’s Final Four on Record; Three Games Averaged 13.8 Million Viewers
  • Each Round of Women’s NCAA Championship Saw Viewership Growth, Up 121% Year-Over-Year Overall
  • Champ Week: ACC, SEC, Pac-12 Championships Post Record Highs for ESPN Nets
  • Regular Season Viewership Up 37% Year-Over-Year

ESPN’s storied coverage of the 2023-24 women’s college basketball season concluded Sunday, following the championship tilt between top seeds South Carolina and Iowa which capped a campaign for the record books. Sunday’s clash scored an impressive 18.9 million viewers, becoming the most-watched women’s college basketball game ever. The heavyweight bout was also ESPN platforms’ most-viewed college basketball game (men’s or women’s) on record and best basketball game (pro or college) since 2017.

The Championship game peaked with 24.1 million viewers as the Gamecocks completed their perfect 38-0 season. The NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship Presented by Capital One is now the second most-watched non-Olympic women’s sporting event on record  on U.S. television behind the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup Final between the U.S. and Japan. Sunday’s Championship clash between the Hawkeyes and Gamecocks is the most-watched English language sporting event – excluding football and the Olympics – across all networks since 2019. The audience was up 90% year-over-year and 289% from 2022 and is the most-watched basketball game (college or pro, men’s or women’s) in five years.

The fan-favorite NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship Special Presented by Capital One studio show scored 2.9 million viewers as a lead-in to the Championship. The crew of Elle Duncan, Andraya Carter, Chiney Ogwumike, Carolyn Peck and guest analyst Aliyah Boston provided analysis, interviews and insight as 1.4 million viewers tuned in to watch South Carolina cut down the nets on ESPN following the game.

The 2024 NCAA Women’s Final Four in Cleveland as a whole grew 114% from the 2023 Final Four Weekend and 299% from 2022, averaging 13.8 million viewers. The two semifinals were the most watched on record with an average of 11 million viewers, marking massive growth over the last two years (+142% from 2023, +307% from 2022).

The semifinal bout between No. 3 UConn and No. 1 Iowa saw its record as the most-watched women’s basketball game stand for roughly 40 hours after scoring 14.4 million viewers. The matchup peaked with 17.3 million viewers and is ESPN’s most-watched basketball game (men’s or women’s, pro or college) on record. It also made a splash digitally, becoming the most-watched college event ever on ESPN+.

The Clash of the Carolinas semifinal between No. 1 South Carolina and No. 3 NC State finished with 7.2 million viewers, the most-watched early National Semifinal on record and an increase of 108% year-over-year. The matchup peaked with an audience of 9.1 million.

The Bird and Taurasi Show Presented by AT&T, one of multiple Women’s Final Four MegaCast offerings, notched a record 1.4 million viewers on ESPN for Sunday’s Championship. That was the largest championship game audience in the show’s three-year history, and the second most-watched alternate telecast for a college event on ESPN platforms.

“The remarkable viewership throughout this women’s basketball season is a testament to the incredible performances of the student-athletes on the court,” said Nick Dawson, ESPN senior vice president of programming and acquisitions. “The game has never been more competitive or filled with more great teams, stars and storylines. The record numbers also reflect the successful collaboration between the NCAA and ESPN and our shared commitment to continue to grow women’s basketball.”

This year’s NCAA Women’s March Madness (57 games) across ESPN platforms averaged 2.2 million viewers, up 121% from the 2023 tournament, making it the most-watched women’s NCAA Tournament since ESPN acquired exclusive rights in 1996. The 2024 NCAA Women’s Championship saw unparalleled numbers, including breaking the record for the most-watched women’s college basketball game on record three times in the span of six days (Iowa-South Carolina – 18.9M, UConn-Iowa – 14.4M, LSU-Iowa – 12.3M). While Caitlin Clark and the Hawkeyes were an undeniable draw throughout the Championship, non-Iowa games saw a 76% growth year-over-year.

Every round of the championship experienced at least double-digit viewership growth versus 2023, including triple-digit increases for the Second Round, the Elite Eight and the National Semifinals. Viewers also consumed a record 15 billion minutes of women’s college basketball 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 third year in a row, with even more advertisers joining in 2024 as 30 sponsors and nearly 1,000 advertisers activated during the championship.

Viewership Success By Round:

  • Elite Eight: Averaged 6.2 million viewers, up 184% year-over-over
    • Delivered the most-watched Elite Eight on record, including four of the five most-watched Elite Eight games ever
    • The 2023 National Championship rematch (LSU-Iowa) scored 12.3 million viewers with a peak of 16.1 million
      • Stood as the most-watched college basketball game (men’s or women’s) on ESPN platforms prior to the Final Four
      • Also stood as ESPN’s second-highest audience for any basketball game (men’s or women’s, pro or college) since 2012
    • Sweet 16: Averaged 2.4 million viewers, the most-viewed Sweet 16 on record
      • Viewership was up 96% across all games
      • Featured four of the top five most-viewed Sweet 16 games on record, including Colorado-Iowa with 6.9 million viewers
        • At the time, the 6.9 million viewers stood as the fifth most-watched women’s college basketball game on record and stood as the second highest audience for the sport since 1995
      • Second Round: Averaged 1.4 million viewers, the most-watched Second Round on record
        • Viewership was up 121% across all games, with growth across each individual network
        • West Virginia-Iowa amassed 4.9 million viewers, the most-watched Women’s NCAA Tournament game prior to the semifinals on record at the time.
        • West Virginia-Iowa, Syracuse-UConn, Middle Tennessee State-LSU and Kansas-USC now rank as the four most-viewed Second Round games on record
      • First Round: Averaged 469,000 viewers, the most-watched First Round since 2009
        • Viewership was up 83% across all games, with growth on each individual network
        • 5 billion total minutes, the most consumed First Round on record
        • Holy Cross-Iowa averaged 3.2 million viewers, the most-viewed First Round game on record
      • First Four: Averaged 184,000 viewers, up 24% from 2023
        • Arizona-Auburn led the way, averaging 236,500 viewers

 Champ Week:
On Conference Championship Sunday, ESPN saw tremendous growth with the SEC, Pac-12 and ACC title games

  • SEC Championship (LSU-South Carolina) averaged 1.96 million viewers, up 126% from 2023
    • Serves as the most-watched SEC Championship Game for ESPN platforms on record
  • Pac-12 Championship (USC-Stanford) delivered an increase of 462% year-over-year, scoring 1.4 million viewers
    • Most-watched Pac-12 Championship Game for ESPN platforms in the conference’s final season
  • ACC Championship (Notre Dame-NC State) averaged 679,000 with a 42% increase from 2023
    • Registers as the most-watched ACC Championship Game for ESPN platforms on record

Regular Season:
ESPN platforms saw its most-watched regular season since 2008-09, averaging 272,000 viewers, up 37% year-over-year. Across ESPN and ABC, the 2023-24 regular season averaged 476,000 viewers. The regular season was the most consumed on record for ESPN platforms, with viewers watching more than 2.6 billion total minutes of live women’s college basketball games. In addition, ESPN platforms aired 13 games that surpassed 500,000 viewers during the regular season slate, the most on record in a single season. Each individual network also recorded growth during the 2023-24 regular season, including a 32% increase from ESPN2. ESPN+ saw its most-watched regular season as well during the 2023-24 campaign.

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