March Madness: Women's Sweet 16 breaks viewership records; Iowa-Louisville in Elite Eight bests NBA on ESPN
The 2023 NCAA women's basketball tournament continued to break records this past weekend during the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight.
ESPN reported that an average of 1.2 million people watched each of the eight games in the Sweet 16 — a 73% increase from 2022 — and 3.5 billion minutes were viewed. Both broke tournament records on the network. Five games topped one million viewers, led by No. 2 UConn versus No. 3 Ohio State, which recorded 2.4 million viewers.
2023 #MarchMadness #NCAAWBB Sweet 16 viewership up 73% YOY
🏀 1.2M viewers
🏀 @OhioStateWBB-@UConnWBB: ESPN platforms most-viewed Sweet 16 game on record
🏀 @UCLAWBB-@GamecockWBB: ESPN platforms 2nd most-viewed Sweet 16 game on record
🏀 3.5B mins consumed thru Sweet 16 pic.twitter.com/j7GtYh4c8z
— ESPN PR (@ESPNPR) March 28, 2023
The Elite Eight, meanwhile, was even more successful. All four games broke one million viewers, according to ShowBuzzDaily.com. No. 2 Iowa's 97-83 win over No. 5 Louisville drew almost 2.5 million viewers, which beat the UConn-Ohio State viewership by around 85,000 people, per ShowBuzzDaily.com.
Iowa-Louisville was on ESPN, a cable network, whereas UConn-Ohio State was on ABC, a broadcast network. ABC games generally garner more viewership than ESPN games because more people have network television, as opposed to cable. Even more: That 2.5 million viewership number was higher than that of any NBA game shown on ESPN this season. The closest NBA viewership number for ESPN this season was the 2.14 million people who watched the New York Knicks and Boston Celtics on March 5, per ShowBuzzDaily.com.
The 2.2 million average viewership for each game was 43% higher than 2022 and the 4.7 billion minutes consumed set an ESPN record, the network announced. As for the tournament as a whole, the 660,000 average viewers per game over the 56 matches was also 42% more than this past season.
However, it wasn't the most watched college basketball game on ESPN. Both Duke-North Carolina matchups on ESPN generated 2.85 million and 2.62 million viewers on Feb. 4 and March 4, respectively, per the network and confirmed by ShowBuzzDaily.
The women's Final Four is set with No. 1 South Carolina, No. 1 Virginia Tech, No. 2 Iowa and No. 3 LSU vying for supremacy in women's basketball. Both games are Friday on ESPN.