The 2023 Women's College World Series reaches new viewership highs
The GIST: The Women’s College World Series (WCWS) is hitting it out of the park. The NCAA softball competition reached new viewership highs when Oklahoma scored its third consecutive championship on Thursday, strengthening the tournament’s business bonafides along the way.
The details: Game 2 of the championship series peaked at 2.3M viewers and averaged 1.9M on ESPN, up 7% YoY. The two-game series’ average viewership was 1.6M, down slightly from 2021’s record-breaking 1.85M average viewers. Both games also generated more than 26K posts and 91M impressions on Twitter.
- Last week’s figures cap off an impressive 2023 WCWS that garnered increased interest in earlier rounds, averaging 969K viewers through the semifinals and setting a Session 1 attendance record of 12.3K. Grand slam.
The context: College softball is surging despite a jam-packed June sports schedule. The WCWS competes for airtime with the NBA Finals and NHL’s Stanley Cup Final, but its consistently strong TV turnout earned better time slots on ESPN and wasn’t far off from its competition — Thursday’s NHL game averaged 2.69M viewers.
- The WCWS is peaking at a pivotal time — ESPN’s current $500M deal to air the tournament, along with nearly 30 other NCAA championships (including women’s March Madness), expires next year.
Zooming out: While the NCAA contemplates selling the March Madness rights on their own, it may be worth exploring if the WCWS could also fetch a major fee solo. The softball competition likely won’t command as much as its basketball counterpart (which could go for up to $112M), but its value is undoubtedly rising.
- ESPN is well aware of the WCWS’ potential — if it retains the rights, the broadcaster hopes to increase coverage and tell more human-interest stories to further compel viewers. Bases loaded.