Caitlin Clark Smashes Another TV Record as WNBA Draft Draws 2.45M

Caitlin Clark’s impact on women’s basketball ratings has broken through to the next level, as a record 2.45 million viewers tuned in to ESPN Monday night to watch as the Iowa star was selected No. 1 in the 2024 WNBA Draft by the Indiana Fever.

The previous high-water mark was set 20 years ago, when 601,000 viewers saw UConn’s Diana Taurasi get snapped up by the Phoenix Mercury. Monday night’s telecast was up nearly five times versus the year-ago draft (512,000 viewers), during which the Fever selected South Carolina’s Aliyah Boston as the first pick.

Clark, who holds the NCAA basketball scoring record with 3,951 career points, featured in the three most-watched women’s hoops games on record, capping off her tenure at Iowa last week in front of a national TV audience of 18.7 million viewers. The Hawkeyes lost to Dawn Staley’s undefeated South Carolina Gamecocks by an 87-75 margin in the April 7 title game on ABC.

Based on last year’s results, the Iowa-South Carolina title tilt should finish among the top 60 most-watched broadcasts of 2024. Clark’s other big TV dates include Iowa’s Final Four triumph over UConn on April 5 (14.2 million viewers) and the Elite Eight revenge game against LSU four days earlier (12.3 million).

While Clark has been instrumental in growing the college game, the 22-year-old will have her work cut out for her in the WNBA, where massive TV numbers are much harder to come by. Per Nielsen, the 2023 WNBA Finals was the most-watched in 20 years, and the four-game series still only averaged 728,000 viewers on ESPN. Moreover, it’s been 16 years since a WNBA game last broke the million-viewer mark.

However things shake out in the near term, Clark’s impact will be apparent as soon as she suits up for Indiana. This season, a whopping 36 of the Fever’s 40 games will be carried on nationally distributed media platforms, including eight on Disney’s linear channels (ABC, ESPN, ESPN2), two on the CBS broadcast network and four on Amazon Prime Video.

Among the other top players who were chosen Monday night were Stanford’s Cameron Brink, who was picked second by the Los Angeles Sparks, and South Carolina’s Kamilla Cardoso, who was chosen third by the Chicago Sky. Joining Cardoso in the Windy City is LSU’s Angel Reese, the draft’s No. 7 pick.

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