Iowa-South Carolina game smashes TV ratings record for women’s hoops

The women’s national championship game that pitted South Carolina against Iowa Sunday smashed a TV ratings record for the most-watched women’s basketball game ever, according to ESPN, which along with ABC televised the game and cited Nielsen Fast Nationals.

The number of viewers peaked at 24 million and drew an average of 18.7 million viewers during a game in which South Carolina prevailed over Caitlin Clark and Iowa, 87-75, at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland.

ESPN Chairman Jimmy Pitaro called it ‘a fitting finale’ to the most-viewed ever NCAA women’s basketball tournament.

‘These exceptional athletes, coaches and teams captured our attention in unprecedented ways and it’s incumbent on all of us to keep the incredible momentum going,’ Pitaro said. ‘I’m also very proud of our talented and committed employees for how they presented this historic event.’

The previous record for the most-watched women’s basketball game was set two days earlier during the Final Four semifinal game between Iowa and Connecticut. That game averaged 14.2 million viewers, according to ESPN, which televised the game during a historic women’s NCAA Tournament for TV ratings.

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The Iowa-UConn game broke a record set in the prior round, with the Iowa-LSU game in the Elite Eight having averaged 12.3 million viewers.

With Clark pitted against undefeated South Carolina on Sunday, the game was the most-watched sporting event since 2019, with the exception of football and the Olympics, according to ESPN. It also was the most watched basketball game of any level since 2019, according to ESPN.

Additionally, the South Carolina-Iowa game became the second most-watched non-Olympic sporting event ever on U.S. television behind the women’s World Cup Final in 2015, when the United States beat Japan, 5-2.

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