Record-Breaking 14.2 Million Viewers Watch Caitlin Clark and Iowa’s Final Four Basketball Win

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It’s the most-watched women’s college game on record, ESPN touts

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This season of women’s collegiate basketball has enjoyed the shattering of record after record, and Friday’s semifinal game between the Iowa Hawkeyes and UConn Huskies has done it again. Viewership for the game destroyed previous records held by ESPN and resulted in the highest-ever audience for any basketball game the network has aired ever — be it NBA, WNBA, men’s or women’s basketball.

The game brought in a record 14.2 million viewers on average throughout the game, peaking at 17 million. It was also the most watched college event ever on ESPN+.

The NC State-South Carolina game from the same night brought in 9 million viewers on its own. The games averaged 3.1 million viewers between the ages of 18 and 49, an increase of 130% over last year.

Few names have reverberated throughout women’s basketball like that of Iowa’s point guard Caitlin Clark, who is widely expected to be the Indiana Fever’s first-round draft pick at the WNBA draft on April 15. Clark, whose prolific career has dominated sports headlines this season, racked up a number of honors and records throughout 2023 and 2024.

These include becoming Iowa’s all-time leading scorer, scoring the most 30-point games by any man or woman in Division I in the past 25 seasons, becoming the Big Ten and Iowa’s all-time leader in assists, becoming the Division I women’s career scoring leader, setting the NCAA single-season record for 3-pointers and becoming the first Division I women’s player to score at least 1,000 points in two different seasons.

UConn’s Paige Bueckers was also a major draw for viewers. The point guard missed the entire 2022-23 basketball season due to a torn ACL but made a triumphant return this season.

In addition to Clark and Bueckers, this year’s March Madness has boasted several other strikingly talented players, including LSU’s Angel Reese (who announced her decision to enter the WNBA draft via a digital spread in Vogue) and Flau’jae Johnson, Iowa’s Kate Martin, Hannah Stuelke and Gabby Marshall, as well as USC’s JuJu Watkins. Enthusiasm for the sport as it translates into viewers is at an all-time high.

Last week, more than 12 million people watched the Iowa-LSU game that sent Kim Mulkey’s talented team of leaders and legends home.

Clark’s popularity is coming at a crucial time for the WNBA, which has long wanted for viewership despite boasting some of the greatest basketball players of all time. The league’s commissioner Cathy Engelbert told KNBC that its focus is on more viewership wins ahead of Clark’s debut this summer.

“We are focused on creating elevated events that WNBA fans won’t want to miss, at a time when the energy for the WNBA has never been higher,” Engelbert explained. “Last season resulted in our most-watched-regular season in over two decades, our highest total attendance in 13 years and set record figures across WNBA digital and social platforms.”

WNBA marketing chief Phil Cook has also signaled the type of impact Clark is expected to have on the league. He told CNN, “I see it as a Tiger Woods entering the PGA Tour moment.

For her part, Clark is looking forward to joining the WNBA—after Sunday’s championship game against the South Carolina Gamecocks. As she told Good Morning America in March, “I’m just kind of ready for the next chapter and a new challenge in my life. And what I’ve been able to do here has been very, very special.”

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