Iowa-LSU Rematch Sets Women's Hoops TV Ratings Record

Last year’s NCAA women’s basketball championship set an all-time ratings record for a women’s game on ESPN. A rematch of that game — albeit two rounds earlier in the tournament — on Monday night drew an even bigger crowd.

Iowa’s 94-87 victory over LSU averaged 12.3 million viewers for ESPN, the largest TV audience ever for a women’s basketball game in the United States. The previous record was set more than 40 years ago, when CBS’ broadcast of the 1983 title game — featuring USC legend Cheryl Miller — drew 11.83 million people. LSU’s 102-85 win in last year’s championship game was the previous ESPN record, drawing 9.9 million viewers across ABC and ESPN2.

The Iowa-LSU game was by far the most watched show in primetime Monday, more than doubling the audience for the biggest program (CBS’ NCIS at 5.9 million) on the broadcast networks.

Monday’s late game, Connecticut’s 80-73 win over USC, also topped all broadcast shows with about 6.7 million viewers. Sunday afternoon, South Carolina and Oregon State averaged 3.1 million viewers on ABC, while North Carolina State and Texas brought in 2.5 million. Together they’re four of the five biggest women’s Elite Eight games ever, and the averaged of 6.2 million for the round is up 184 percent over last year.

Iowa, whose Caitlin Clark became the NCAA’s all-time leading scorer (women’s and men’s) earlier in the season, has been drawing huge viewership throughout the tournament; its four games thus far have averaged about 6.83 million viewers. LSU has also been a strong draw, averaging 4.73 million viewers for its tournament run.

Monday’s game had the second biggest audience for any game in the men’s and women’s tournament thus far, behind only the 15.14 million viewers for the North Carolina State men’s upset of Duke on CBS Sunday afternoon.

Heading into this weekend’s Final Fours, both tournaments have posted improved TV viewership compared to a year ago. Through three rounds, the women’s bracket has more than doubled its audience on the ESPN networks, averaging 1.1 million viewers for all games (that doesn’t include the Elite Eight matchups Sunday and Monday). On the men’s side, CBS and Warner Bros. Discovery Sports have averaged 9.4 million viewers through Sunday, a 4 percent improvement year to year.

April 2, 4:28 p.m. Updated with viewer figures for the three other NCAA women’s Elite Eight games.

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