LSU-Iowa title game draws 9.9 million viewers: Why a game-changer for women’s CBB

According to ESPN, Sunday’s women’s basketball national championship game featuring the LSU Tigers and Iowa Hawkeyes drew 9.9 million viewers. Here’s what you need to know:

  • It is the most watched women’s basketball game of all time.
  • The game’s viewership peaked at 12.6 million.
  • LSU defeated Iowa 102-85, winning the program’s first national championship.

the athleteInstant Analysis:

A game-changing moment for women’s college basketball

We tend to take a cliché to describe things as “game-changing,” but this watch number is a game-changer for women’s college basketball. The previous all-time record for an NCAA women’s basketball game in the ESPN era (since 1996) was 5.68 million viewers for UConn’s win over Oklahoma in 2002. (The previous all-time record, according to Sports Media Watch, is believed to be the 8.1 million viewers for Virginia’s semifinals —Stanford National on CBS 1992.) LSU’s win over Iowa obliterated it. Such a number, in my estimation, changes public perception, investment, and everything.

Some context: The 1999 Women’s World Cup Final on ABC averaged 17.975 million viewers. It was an amazing number at the time and it supercharged the sport. I think this will have the same effect.

This is also not a moment. The growth in female lead viewership has been a theatrics for several years. Last Friday’s Iowa vs South Carolina semifinals drew 5.5 million viewers. Last year’s final between South Carolina and UConn averaged 4.85 million viewers across ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU, the most-watched title game since UConn-Tennessee in 2004. Last year’s semifinal between UConn-Stanford averaged 3.23 million viewers across ESPN and ESPNU, the largest audience for a semifinal game since Baylor-Stanford in 2012 (3.76 million).

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The game has become more sporty, faster, and most importantly, access to the game has become much wider with more TV windows (including on ABC). Remember this day if you are a fan of women’s basketball. Because you’ll be talking about it years from now. – Deitsch

comparative context

“Friday Night Football” on Amazon Prime Video last season averaged 9.58 million viewers in the Nielsen Media Research-only batch of its opening 15-game package. Nine “TNF” games averaged less than 9.9 million in the Nielsen measures.

This is another piece of data that, as the NCAA’s recent Gender Study showed, indicates that the women’s tournament is undervalued as part of the 14-year, $500 million multi-sport combo deal that ESPN struck with the NCAA in 2011. – something

background story

Viewership for the National Championship follows the record-setting National Semifinals. Those two games — LSU vs. Virginia Tech and South Carolina vs. Iowa — combined to become the most-watched Women’s Final Four game of all time, with an average of 4.5 million viewers.

required reading

(Photo: Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

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