Millions Watched Caitlin Clark Against Angel Reese, Beating Average Viewers for NBA Playoff Games Last Year

Millions Watched Caitlin Clark Against Angel Reese, Beating Average Viewers for NBA Playoff Games Last Year

Women’s basketball has always taken a back seat to men’s hoops, which is especially true when you look at the NBA’s television ratings compared with those of the WNBA.

As a general rule, women’s games in the NCAA Tournament are also less popular than the men’s.

That has not been the case this season, and it’s safe to assume superstar Iowa point guard Caitlin Clark is the reason for all the intrigue.

Clark’s record-breaking season has brought so many people to women’s hoops that her game Monday night was officially more popular than last year’s NBA Finals.

You read that statement correctly.

Iowa’s Elite Eight matchup with Angel Reese’s LSU Tigers — a game in which Clark hit nine 3-pointers from what felt like downtown Des Moines and scored 41 points in all — was watched by more people than any of last year’s NBA postseason games on average.

More people tuned in to the Hawkeyes’ 94-87 victory over the defending national champions than they did on average to last year’s NBA Finals.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the rematch of last year’s LSU-Iowa title game averaged 12.3 million viewers for ESPN.

That was good enough to crown it the most-watched women’s basketball game in American history.

Last year’s matchup between the Hawkeyes and Tigers — won by LSU — drew in 9.9 million viewers for ESPN, which was the previous record for a women’s tournament game for the network.

But then Clark went off all season, smashed records, led her team back to the tournament and set herself up for a quiet revenge game that piqued so much interest it was seen by more people on average than had watched the NBA Playoffs in recent years.

The game’s 12.3 million average viewers can be put into context when compared with the NBA’s celebratory news release about its ratings success in June.

“The 2023 NBA Playoffs across ABC, ESPN and TNT averaged 5.47 million viewers, making it the most-watched playoffs in five years,” the league announced.

“NBA games accounted for nine of the top 10 most-watched programs across all of television since the beginning of May and 15 of the top 20 most-watched programs among people under 50 since the start of April,” it said.

The average is less than half that of Monday’s Iowa-LSU game.

“The 2023 NBA Finals, which saw the Denver Nuggets defeat the Miami Heat in a five-game series on ABC, averaged 11.64 million viewers, more than tripling its competition and winning the night across all of television for all five broadcasts,” the NBA said.

I’m not a math wizard, but according to my calculations, 12.3 million is a greater number than 11.64 million.

We don’t know how many viewers were watching at the peak of Monday’s grudge match between Clark and Reese, but the NBA said last year’s Game 5 drew 17.88 million viewers at one point.

But as far as what each game averaged, a Monday night game between two women’s college basketball teams was a bigger draw than the NBA’s championship series last season.

I don’t think that is as much of an indictment of the NBA as it is a complement to Clark and her appeal.

There were three other Elite Eight women’s games this week, and none of those came close to drawing the kind of crowd the Iowa star did.

The 22-year-old and her teammates will play UConn – a team she wanted to play for but did not recruit her in high school – on Friday night at the Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in Cleveland.

Forty minutes of basketball will decide which team advances to the national title game to face the winner of the other Final Four matchup between South Carolina and N.C. State.

No matter if Iowa wins, it’s safe to assume that hordes of people will be watching.

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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