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Quantifying the Caitlin Clark Effect

May 23, 2024 | Sports
Caitlin Clark playing basketball

Source Summary

For the first time in history, the women’s NCAA basketball championship outdrew the men’s final in terms of TV audience. The women’s final, which pitted undefeated South Carolina against the Caitlin Clark-led Iowa Hawkeyes, averaged over 18 million viewers and peaked at 24 million people tuning in. Meanwhile, the men’s final, featuring a matchup of the top two seeds, UConn and Purdue, drew an average audience of 14.8 million viewers. The women’s final broke the week-old record for the most-viewed women’s college game ever, which was set in the semifinal showdown between UConn and Iowa.

OUR TAKE

The Caitlin Clark Effect is real—it’s no surprise that the two most-viewed NCAA women’s games ever featured the electric Clark’s Hawkeyes. But while Clark was certainly the main driver of audiences the likes of which NCAA women’s basketball has never seen, she wasn’t the lone force. The tournament as a whole saw tremendous growth—an increase of 121% compared to 2023.

Clark, the presumptive number-one pick in tonight’s WNBA draft, has the opportunity to reshape the sport at the professional level. If her throngs of fans continue to follow her career, it won’t just raise the popularity of the league, but also immensely boost the value of the franchise that drafts her (presumably the Indiana Fever). While it won’t instantly create the first billion dollar women’s sports franchise (the Seattle Storm are currently estimated to be the most valuable franchise in the league at $151 million, significantly higher than the league average of $43 million),it’s safe to say that, if the Indiana Fever do indeed draft Caitlin Clark, the team will see its value launched into the upper echelon of WNBA teams, potentially even to the top.