The 2021 NCAA women’s basketball tournament delivered on a number of different fronts. Not only did we see nail-biting performances, both in the Final Four and Sunday night’s championship game, but the tournament notched a number of viewership milestones as well, according to Amanda Christovich of Front Office Sports.
The report notes that the first-round game between Tennessee and Middle Tennessee on ABC earned the biggest audience during any women’s first-round game since 2010, according to Sports Media Watch, and the Sweet 16 had 66% more average viewers than it did in 2019.
The UConn Huskies played a big role in the uptick in viewership. Their Elite Eight matchup against Baylor, which came down to the game’s controversial final play, saw 1.7 million average viewers on ESPN which was a 32% increase from the 2019 UConn Elite Eight game, as noted by SMW.
Prior to that, per FOS, the Huskies Sweet 16 win over Iowa, on ABC, marked a 129% increase from its 2019 Sweet 16 game.
According to Christovich, the ratings followed a pattern of consistent growth for the NCAA women’s basketball tournament in recent years, and, as FOS College previously reported, ESPN’s decision to air the entire 2021 tournament nationally for the first time was “a direct result of the ever-growing popularity of women’s college basketball.”