Britney Griner and the Baylor ended their record 40-0 season with an exclamation point, routing Notre Dame, while scoring the most-viewed NCAA women's basketball national championship telecast since 2004.
ESPN's telecast of Baylor's 80-61 dismantling of the Fighting Irish -- the Lady Bears became the first college hoops team, men' or women's, to win 40 games in a single season -- dunked a 3.2 rating, 3.14 million households and over 4.2 million viewers, according to Nielsen data. That was an 11% increase from the 3.8 million who saw Texas A&M top Notre Dame in the 2011 championship contest and ranked as the most watched title tilt since UConn-Tennessee scored with 5.58 million in 2004. All told, Baylor-ND is the fifth-most-viewed championship contest since ESPN began televising the women's tourney in 1996.
Over the three Final Four telecasts from Denver, ESPN averaged a 2.6 rating, 2.6 million households and 3.64 million viewers for gains of 8%, 9% and 13%, respectively, from a 2.4, 2.38 million homes and 3.22 million watchers a year ago. This year's Final Four was ESPN's most-viewed since 2004.
ND's 83-75 overtime win over UConn in the first national semifinal played to a 2.1 cable rating, 11% amelioration from the 1.9 mark Texas A&M-Stanford, according to Nielsen. ESPN officials said ND-UConn was the highest-rated semifinal game in the first telecast window since Stanford-UConn also posted a 2.1 on April 6, 2008.
The second national semifinal game that saw Baylor crush the Cardinal 59-47 delivered 2.6 national rating, an 8% increase over the 2.4 for last year's UConn-Notre Dame semifinal, while viewership reached 3.76 million.
Overall, the NCAA women's basketball tournament was the second most-viewed ever for ESPN/ESPN2, averaging a 1.4 rating, 1.37 million households and 1.8 million viewers. That performance matched the 2011 distaff version of March Madness in terms of rating, but was down 5% to 1.45 million home and off 2% from last year's record-setting average of 1.9 million numbers. ESPN presented 11 windows with this year's event, versus a dozen in 2011.
ESPN's digital platforms, ESPN3 and WatchESPN, also posted double-digit growth with a 16% increase in viewership on ESPN3 compared to 2011. In addition, espnW.com logged an average of 300,000 daily unique visitors during the 2012 NCAA Women's Basketball Championship.
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