With hopes of a separate television contract in upcoming negotiations, the women’s NCAA Tournament keeps gaining momentum.
The national title game returns to network television for the first time since 1995, with an ABC broadcast on April 2 from Dallas and a one-hour pregame show.
ABC will feature at least six games from the women’s tournament, including two first-round games Saturday and a pair of second-round contests Sunday.
“Putting it on ABC, we’re giving it the best opportunity for success,” said Dan Ochs, who handles women’s basketball programming for ESPN. “This tournament continues to grow and deliver for us.”
South Carolina’s 64-49 victory over Connecticut in last year’s title game averaged 4.85 million viewers on ESPN — the most-watched women’s championship game since 2004. It was also the fourth-largest audience for the title game since the network began airing the entire tournament in 1996.
The 2022 women’s tournament overall averaged 634,000 viewers per game, a 16% increase over 2021, with many of the rounds seeing their highest averages in more than 10 years.
ESPN has every reason to believe those numbers can increase: Regular-season games on the network averaged over 190,000 viewers, making it the most-viewed regular season since 2015. And a matchup of two undefeated teams on Feb. 12, in which South Carolina topped LSU, was the most-watched regular-season women’s game since 2010 with an average of 1.47 million viewers.
Advertising for the tournament has sold out for the second straight year, ESPN said, with 15 broadcast sponsors and nearly 100 advertisers.
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