Comparing Viewing Figures of All NCAA Championships: Football and Basketball Still Rule the Roost But Gymnastics Sees a 16-Year High

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Drawing from the data compiled by SportsMediaWatch, we’ve unearthed some compelling patterns regarding NCAA Championship viewing figures. From the bright lights of college football to the fervor of women’s water polo, the varying viewership numbers offer a glimpse into the American sports audience’s psyche.

After analyzing the data, some interesting patterns came to the forefront, this included seven NCAA championships that raked in viewership numbers exceeding one million. These comprised of college football, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s college World Series baseball, women’s college World Series softball, FCS football national championship, and women’s college gymnastics.

Most would argue that these results align with anticipated trends, given the immense popularity of football and basketball in the United States. However, the inclusion of gymnastics may surprise a few, with an NCAA championship reaching viewership figures of over a million. And there are a few other surprises too, not all positive.

Before we dive deeper into the figures, let’s quickly breakdown what the data showed.

  • College football and basketball take top spots in championship game viewership
  • College Football Playoff championship game sees all-time low viewership in CFP era
  • Women’s college basketball championship reaches unprecedented viewing figures
  • Gymnastics hits 16-year high with over a million viewers tuning in
  • Championship games airing on ESPNU predictably draw low viewership numbers

Viewership Figures for NCAA Championships

Below are the viewing figures for each NCAA Championship:

Sport Teams Viewership (in millions)
College Football Georgia vs. TCU 17.22
Men’s College Basketball UConn vs. San Diego State 14.69
Women’s College Basketball LSU vs. Iowa 9.9
Men’s College World Series Baseball LSU vs. Florida (Game 3) 3.59
Women’s College World Series Softball Oklahoma vs. FSU (Game 2) 1.86
FCS Football National Championship South Dakota State vs. North Dakota State 1.07
Women’s College Gymnastics Oklahoma, Florida, LSU, Utah 1.02
Division II Men’s Basketball Nova Southeastern vs. West Liberty 0.998
Men’s Hockey National Championship Quinnipiac vs. Minnesota 0.808
Women’s Volleyball Texas vs. Louisville 0.786
Men’s Lacrosse Notre Dame vs. Duke 0.757
Wrestling Penn State vs. Iowa 0.454
Beach Volleyball National Championship USC vs. UCLA 0.380
Men’s NIT Final UAB vs. North Texas 0.370
Women’s Lacrosse Title Game Northwestern vs. Boston College 0.316
Outdoor Track & Field Championships N/A 0.227
D-III Football Championship N. Central vs. Mt. Union 0.206
Men’s Golf Finals Florida vs. GA Tech 0.163
D-II Football Championships Ferris St. vs. CSofM 0.151
Men’s Soccer Final Syracuse vs. Indiana 0.137
Women’s Golf Finals Wake Forest vs. USC 0.108
Women’s Soccer UCLA vs. UNC 0.076
Women’s Hockey Wisconsin vs. Ohio State 0.053
Women’s Water Polo USC vs. Stanford 0.017

Gymnastics and Livvy Dunne the Big Winner?

Despite college football and basketball leading the way in viewers, the spotlight landed surprisingly on women’s gymnastics, reaching a substantial audience of over a million. Livvy Dunne, one of the top paid female college athletes and social media sensation from LSU, could arguably be a significant factor behind this spike.

This extraordinary young gymnast pulled in her extensive online fanbase to the championship event, leading to a 16-year high in viewership figures for the sport.

Men’s College Football and Basketball Suffer, Women’s Sports Surge

Turning to college football, the Georgia vs. TCU match, despite accruing the highest viewership, didn’t match up to the numbers from the riveting semi-finals. The viewership dip could be tied to the blowout nature of the game, which saw UGA dominate early and take the title unchallenged. This marked the least-watched championship game in CFP history.

Interestingly, March Madness, usually a viewer’s delight, didn’t perform as expected, perhaps due to a lack of marquee names in the final showdown between UConn and San Diego State. This championship game also drew a record low number of viewers.

Meanwhile, the women’s basketball championship penned a different narrative. The face-off between Caitlin Clark’s Iowa and Angel Reese’s LSU garnered record-high viewership figures, underscoring the rising popularity of women’s basketball.

Furthermore, men’s hockey and lacrosse witnessed audiences they hadn’t seen in over a decade, reflecting a potential resurgence in interest for these sports.

ESPNU Championships Suffer Low Ratings

On the flip side, sports at the lower end of the viewing scale, such as women’s water polo, soccer, and hockey recorded figures less than a million. The low viewing figures could be attributed to their telecast on ESPNU, a channel not as widely viewed as its counterparts.

These viewership figures paint an intriguing picture of the NCAA championships. Football and basketball continue to command significant attention, with some unexpected sports gaining traction. It’s a reminder that with the right mix of talent, competition, and accessibility, any sport can shine on the grand stage.

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