ESPN’s coverage of the Connecticut women’s basketball team completing a perfect season to win an NCAA record ninth title by drubbing previously unbeaten Notre Dame scored the sixth-best audience since the worldwide leader began televising the tourney in 1996.
The April 8 telecast netted a 2.8 U.S. household rating and 4.27 million viewers, according to Nielsen data. The rating for the unprecedented title game battle of unbeatens – it was the first such matchup in men’s or women’s college basketball history – was the best for the sport since a 3.5 in 2004, when UConn topped Tennessee for the title.
Unfortunately, the contest didn’t match its pursuit of perfection hype – the Huskies, who finished at 40-0, led by seven at the half and outscored the Irish 18-4 immediately after intermission en route to a 79-58 rout – curtailing any hopes for a stronger Nielsen performance.
Still, the ratings tally represented a 40% increase over the 2.0 for UConn’s dismantling of Louisville in last year’s final, and a 33% edge over its 3.2 million viewers.
In addition, nearly 100,000 fans turned to WatchESPN for the traditional telecast and the special ESPN3 Surround production of the matchup. Those users accounted for 3.8 million minutes, both all-time highs for a women’s college basketball game. Additionally, the contest generated the most minutes viewed for an ESPN3 Surround production, which affords users a live streaming companion feed giving viewers alternate camera angles and in-stadium audio, to date.