Measuring ESPN's success in drawing viewers for this season's women's NCAA Tournament championship game depends on what is used as a comparison.
The network announced Monday that Stanford's victory over Arizona drew an average of 3.63 million viewers. The peak viewership on Sunday reached 5.34 million.
In 2019, the title game, which featured Baylor edging Notre Dame 82-81, attracted 3.69 million viewers, about 2 percent more than this year. But when Notre Dame defeated Mississippi State 61-58 in 2018, the average was 3.54 million, some 3 percent lower than this year. There was no tournament in 2020 due to the pandemic.
Sports Business Journal, which noted that ESPN has been broadcasting the title game since 1996, also included some observations about the geography of the teams involved and the relatively recent decision to play the game on a Sunday.
In 2016, the last year the game (a UConn rout of Syracuse) was played on a Tuesday, the ratings were far below this year's figure. And for the 2015 game, in which UConn defeated Notre Dame 63-53, the average viewership 3.08 million.
This year also marked the first time that both teams in the championship game were from west of the Mississippi. That is noteworthy because some 47 percent of the nation's television viewership lies in the Eastern time zone.
--Field Level Media