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South Carolina-LSU game continues NCAA TV ratings surge

South Carolina's Zia Cooke drives to the hoop against LSU on Feb. 12. (Lance King/Getty Images)

As South Carolina defeated LSU on Sunday, 1.5 million viewers on average turned their TVs to ESPN, making it the most-watched regular season women’s college basketball game since 2010.

The contest drew historic numbers despite competing with Super Bowl pregame content on other networks.

No. 1 South Carolina, now the lone undefeated squad in women’s college basketball, has set multiple high viewership marks this season. Their Feb. 5 game against UConn drew 1.1 million viewers, making it the fourth most-watched game since 2010.

South Carolina is setting the standard for viewership, but other teams are following suit. Iowa and Indiana’s Feb. 9 matchup on the Big Ten Network was the most-watched women’s basketball game in network history.

The record-setting numbers represent a larger trend that took shape during the 2022 NCAA Tournament. The first two rounds saw a 15 percent increase in TV viewership, while the second round averaged 474,000 viewers, up 25 percent from 2021. An early–round game between the University of Central Florida and UConn drew 1.12 million viewers, while Creighton’s upset of Iowa neared 1 million.

The 2022 NCAA championship game between South Carolina and UConn was the most-viewed men’s or women’s college basketball game on ESPN since 2008. Viewership peaked at 5.91 million for the Gamecocks’ victory.

This season, the championship game will be broadcast on ABC after years of being on ESPN, opening the door for even more viewers.

“Women’s NCAA Championships continue to generate strong audiences across the ABC/ESPN networks and this move represents yet another unique opportunity to showcase this marquee event and the student-athletes who are competing for a national championship,” Burke Magnus, President of Programming and Original Content, told reporters last year.