Sunday’s NCAA Women’s Basketball championship matchup between Iowa and LSU was historic in more ways than one. Not only did LSU’s 102-85 victory secure its first national basketball title in school history, but the game also drew the largest audience on record for a women’s college basketball game.
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The game, which began at 3:30 p.m. ET, drew 9.9 million viewers, peaking at 12.6M, across ABC, ESPN and digital platforms. These numbers are based on Nielsen’s fast-national data, so they would be expected to increase slightly when the final data is available.
While the network didn’t break down the specific streaming audience, it says the game had the largest audience ever for any college event on ESPN+ to date.
The audience for Iowa-LSU was up 103% over last year’s audience for the title game between the UConn Huskies and the South Carolina Gamecocks.
To put those numbers into context, they aren’t far off from last year’s NBA Finals; the matchups between the Golden State Warriors and Boston Celtics averaged about 12.4M total viewers, with the deciding Game 6 peaking at 14M viewers. However, that was the lowest average audience for the NBA Finals since 2007.
The women’s championship viewership is also on par with the men’s college basketball tournament, which was averaging around 9M viewers through regional finals. That’s down about 6% from last year’s men’s finals. The championship game between the San Diego State Aztecs and Connecticut Huskies is tonight on CBS.
The women’s Final Four set records throughout the weekend, with an average of 3.4M people tuning in to watch LSU-Virginia Tech on Friday. That was up 57% from last year’s early game. Iowa-South Carolina averaged 5.5M viewers, a 72% lift from last year’s late game. Both matchups also set records for college sports on ESPN+.
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