The 2024 NCAA women's basketball national championship game between the South Carolina Gamecocks and the Iowa Hawkeyes has become the most-watched basketball game of any kind in the US in the last five years, and the most-watched women’s fixture ever.

An average viewership of 18.7 million people watched South Carolina beat Iowa in the final of the NCAA’s annual women’s basketball national championship, the largest number for any basketball game across men’s women’s, collegiate, and professional since the 2019 NCAA men’s national championship game between Virginia and Texas Tech, which drew 19.6 million.

Average viewership for the fixture was 88% higher than the 2023 women’s national championship game, which also featured Iowa and drew 9.92 million average viewers.

The matchup was broadcast across Disney-owned networks ABC and ESPN, peaking at 24 million viewers and shattering both the average and peak recorded viewership for a women’s basketball game, a record which itself had only stood for less than 24 hours.

Iowa, powered by interest in star player Caitlin Clark, broke the all-time record for women’s basketball viewership in the US three times in less than a week, with each of the team's last three games of the tournament, starting with its victory over LSU, notching greater viewership than ever before.

All three of these games were broadcast by ESPN, which in January secured a bumper eight-year, $920 million extension with the NCAA to continue to broadcast the women’s basketball national championships (but not the men’s), as well as several other top college sports such as American football, baseball, lacrosse, and tennis.

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The NCAA’s inclusion of the division I women’s basketball tournament in the broadcast renewal is notable as, despite its popularity, it has not been sold as a standalone competition like its male equivalent. However, the NCAA said slightly more than half the annual fee provided by ESPN – around $65 million per year – will go to women’s basketball.

In recent years, the popularity of the men’s final has faltered, while the latest edition of the women’s final is the fifth straight women’s national championship game to increase viewership from the previous year.