April 1, 2021
Women’s tournament is trending
TV viewership hits ten-year high and social media engagement soars
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In a year when historic disparities in investment between the men’s and women’s tournaments have been on full display, ratings for women’s tournament games have soared.
Last Saturday’s marquee Sweet Sixteen match-up between Iowa and Connecticut, featuring freshmen superstars Caitlin Clark and Paige Bueckers, drew 1.56 million viewers on ABC, the second most-watched women’s Sweet Sixteen game in history. Airing immediately after that match-up, Baylor and Michigan drew 1.22 million viewers. These stellar ratings follow increased first-round viewership; the Tennessee-Middle Tennessee first-round game averaged 633,000 viewers, the most for an opening-round audience since 2010.
Monday night’s Elite Eight nail-biter between No. 2 Baylor and No. 1 Connecticut in the River Walk region drew 1.70 million viewers, the largest audience for a pre-Final Four women’s NCAA tournament game in a decade.
The women’s tournament has also been trending on social media. This week, Axios shared data that reveal that eight of the ten most followed NCAA basketball players in the Elite Eight are women. Fans have also been showing up on social media. The Baylor-Connecticut match-up had 39 million impressions on social media and 9,600 in-game posts across media platforms, far exceeding the social engagement surrounding the men’s basketball games happening the same night.
For the first time in the history of the women’s tournament, every game of the 2021 NCAA tournament was scheduled to air nationally. Several tournament games were also broadcast on ABC, marking the first time the tournament has aired on broadcast television since 1995.