The NCAA US collegiate sports organizer has set an all-time record for single-game viewership of women’s college basketball in its annual Division 1 Women’s College Basketball Tournament.

The high-profile “Elite Eight” (quarter-final) matchup between first-seed Iowa Hawkeyes and third-seed LSU Tigers drew an average of 12.3 million viewers on Disney-owned heavyweight sports network ESPN on Monday (April 1).

This is the highest average viewership for a women’s college basketball game ever, with the previous record having stood since 1983, when 11.84 million tuned into the national championship game on CBS.

Powered by the rivalry between Iowa star prospect Caitlin Clark and LSU standout Angel Reese, the game's broadcast audience peaked at 16.1 million viewers, far outpacing the championship game from the 2023 edition of the tournament, which also saw LSU take on Iowa.

That national championship game, televised by the Disney-owned ABC network, averaged 9.9 million viewers and peaked at 12.6 million, with the brewing rivalry between Clark and Reese since the hotly contested game driving even greater interest for the pair’s quarter-final matchup this time round.

Given that the 2023 championship game had aired in a prime Sunday afternoon slot, the fact that the 2024 Elite Eight fixture drew more viewers in a less desirable slot (the 2023 equivalent game averaged just 2.17 million) speaks to the star power of the two players.

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Beyond just women’s basketball, Iowa vs LSU was the most watched basketball game on the ESPN network since game 7 of the 2018 NBA Eastern Conference finals between Lebron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers, and the Boston Celtics, and the most watched basketball game on cable TV in the US in general since the 2022 men’s NCAA National Championship game.

The strong viewership for the 2024 women’s Elite Eight did not end with Iowa vs LSU, with the following game on Monday night, UConn Huskies vs USC Trojans, drawing an average of 6.72 million viewers, the most for an NCAA women’s college basketball tournament game not featuring Clark since 1995.

In January, the NCAA announced a new eight-year, $920 million TV deal with ESPN.

The agreement, which starts with the 2024-25 academic year and runs through 2031-32, includes domestic rights to 40 championships – 21 women’s and 19 men’s events – and international rights to the same championships as well as the Division I men’s basketball tournament.