Iowa's win over South Carolina set several benchmarks for ESPN, including the highest rating for any game in 15 years. Mar 31, 2023; Dallas, TX, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes guard Caitlin Clark (22) controls the ball against the South Carolina Gamecocks as time expires in the second half in semifinals of the women’s Final Four of the 2023 NCAA Tournament at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

When Caitlin Clark and the Iowa Hawkeyes upset the top-ranked and previously undefeated South Carolina Gamecocks in the second semifinal of the 2023 NCAA women’s basketball tournament on Friday night a lot of people watched.

ESPN released the numbers on Saturday.

Friday’s first game between LSU and Virginia Tech averaged 3.4 million viewers, peaking at 5 million. Iowa’s win over Virginia Tech averaged 5.5 million and peaked at 6.6 million.

It also set numerous benchmarks for college basketball on ESPN.

Paulsen reported that “Excluding college and pro football, it also ranks as the most-watched sporting event on the ESPN cable networks since Game 7 of last year’s NBA Eastern Conference Finals (Celtics-Heat: 9.88M).”

It was also the most watched women’s tournament game for ESPN in nearly 20 years.

“Iowa’s upset of previously-undefeated South Carolina led the way with 5.5 million, up 72% from last year (UConn-Stanford: 3.23M) and the most-watched women’s national semifinal on record. It also delivered the largest audience for any game of the women’s tournament — including the National Championship — since the 2004 UConn-Tennessee title game (5.6M),” Paulsen reported.

And no basketball game, men or women, has drawn a bigger audience on ESPN since 2008.

“The Hawkeyes’ win, which peaked with 6.6 million viewers, ranks third all-time among women’s tournament games on the ESPN family of networks behind the 2004 final and the 2002 UConn-Oklahoma title game (5.7M). It ranks as the most-watched college basketball game on the ESPN networks, regardless of gender, since a Duke-North Carolina men’s game in 2008 (5.6M),” the report added.”

With Caitlin Clark still and the Hawkeyes still alive, expect to see that number grow even more for Sunday’s championship game between LSU and Iowa.


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