March 18, 2022 

Big Ten excited for what lies ahead after a season of record-setting ratings

Conference's ratings on Big Ten Network highest they've ever been

Big Ten women’s basketball ascended this season beyond its on-court product.

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After having five teams crack the Associated Press’ final top-25 poll, the conference had its highest ratings on the Big Ten Network in the regular season. According to a press release, the Big Ten averaged 70,000 viewers per game in the regular season, which was up 41% from the 2019-20 season. Its ratings did even better during the conference tournament, which averaged 120,000 viewers throughout the week in Indianapolis.

“The numbers that are still coming out are staggering with the amount of eyeballs that we had from a TV perspective,” said Big Ten Vice President of Women’s Basketball Megan Kahn. “Our viewership that Sunday during the championship was up over 400% year to year. It was a huge success.

“In terms of the attendance we had, it’s a great sign for the future and what I want to do and where I want to see us going in terms of fan attendance.”

Highest Ratings in Big Ten Conference Tournament

Conference GameViewership
Nebraska-Iowa (2022 Semifinal)286,000
Nebraska-Michigan (2022 Quarterfinal)238,000
***On ESPN, the conference championship was the most-viewed Big Ten championship game in the network’s history.

When Kahn spoke to The Next in November, she emphasized how important it was to fill up the arena every year during the conference tournament. Kahn pointed to how the University of Iowa is used to playing in front of 7,000-8,000 people in the regular season before going to the conference tournament where attendance was significantly lower.

Not this year.

The average attendance at the Big Ten tournament in Indianapolis this year was over 6,000 fans per game, which was the highest mark since 2012. 8,709 fans also filled the seats at Gainbridge Fieldhouse during the championship. That was the most fans the Big Ten championship had since 2004.

“I didn’t really know what to expect,” said Kahn. “Last year we didn’t really have fans because of COVID and there was a lot of build-up leading into that tournament. The beauty of having six top-30 teams in the conference is that it generates fan attendance and it might have been a different story if we didn’t have teams putting on a great product on the floor every single time.

“Look at how competitive most of those games were. I thought it was great for the fans and the student-athlete experience.”

This year was challenging for the Big Ten and Kahn. Teams within the conference dealt with their respective COVID-19 spells, leaving Kahn and her team dedicating most of their time to figuring out how to reschedule games. Her priorities of educating student-athletes about business, what comes after life after basketball and improving the Big Ten’s tournament experience were all pushed aside this year.

However, the future is bright for the conference. Big Ten coaches are excited to finally have someone in Kahn’s position to elevate what they believe is one of the best products in college basketball. The success of the Big Ten’s regular-season ratings and conference tournament only shows a glimpse of what is to come.

“I’m super excited,” said Kahn. “As unfortunate as it was that my attention went to rescheduling games, it also allowed me to jump out of the gates and build relationships very quickly with our head coaches. I know I wasn’t able to accomplish everything I wanted to in my first year but this is about building something special and unique and I know that we can have that.”

Written by James Kay

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