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South Carolina-Iowa title game shatters women’s college basketball ratings record

The ratings record for a women’s college basketball game just got shattered – again.

Sunday’s NCAA tournament national title game between undefeated and top overall seed South Carolina and Caitlin Clark’s Iowa Hawkeyes averaged 18.7 million viewers, peaking at 24 million, according to preliminary numbers from Nielsen.

South Carolina won its third national title – all under head coach Dawn Staley – to finish the season 38-0.

“With a record-setting audience of 18.7 million viewers, Sunday’s Iowa-South Carolina title game was a fitting finale to the most-viewed ever NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament,” ESPN Chairman Jimmy Pitaro said. “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.”

ESPN said the NCAA title game was the second most-watched non-Olympic women’s sporting event ever on US television after the 2015 Women’s World Cup final between the United States and Japan.

It was also the most watched basketball game – including NBA and WNBA – since 2019, according to ESPN.

Before Sunday’s championship game, which aired on ABC, Clark and the Hawkeyes were part of the top three most-viewed women’s college basketball games of all time: Friday’s Final Four win against UConn (14.2 million), their Elite Eight win against LSU (12.3 million) and last year’s national championship game against LSU (9.9 million).

The 2024 Elite Eight and Final Four aired on ESPN, on cable. The 2023 championship game aired on ABC, which like ESPN is owned by Disney.

The 2024 edition of the title contest drew 89% more viewers than last year and 285% more than 2022 when South Carolina defeated Connecticut.

While celebrating her team’s win, South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley also praised Iowa’s Clark for her contribution to women’s basketball.

“I want to personally thank Caitlin Clark for lifting up our sport,” Staley said, adding Clark “carried a heavy load.”

“Do I think South Carolina is a part of it? Yeah, we’re a part of it. I don’t know what part, but you can see the numbers that, when Caitlin plays in a game, you see the numbers. They’re real numbers, and a lot of people like to deal in those real numbers,” Staley said.

“I hope we were able to attract some more people by the amount of eyeballs that probably watched our game just because Caitlin was appearing in it.”

CNN’s Thomas Schlachter contributed to this report.

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