The Caitlin Clark Effect: Iowa draws record viewership in win vs. Maryland

EVANSTON, ILLINOIS - JANUARY 31: Caitlin Clark #22 of the Iowa Hawkeyes signs autographs after the game against the Northwestern Wildcats at Welsh-Ryan Arena on January 31, 2024 in Evanston, Illinois. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Caitlin Clark and the Iowa Hawkeyes have no problem drawing a crowd. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Where Iowa guard Caitlin Clark goes, fans follow.

As the 22-year-old led the Hawkeyes to a 93-85 win over Maryland on Saturday, Fox’s broadcast of the competition garnered roughly 1.6 million viewers for the most-watched women’s basketball game in the network’s history. Those numbers also make Iowa’s regular-season win the second-most viewed women’s college basketball game on any network since 2010, according to Sports Media Watch.

Only seven other matchups across men’s and women’s college hoops this season have attracted more views.

What’s more, Fox introduced the Caitlin Clark Cam, which drew around 800,000 viewers on TikTok. The alternate viewing experience recorded and streamed Clark’s every move, even when she was on the bench. It was the network’s first streamed live game content on TikTok, so no athlete has ever received the same treatment from FOX.

Clark scored 38 points with all eyes on her, another major performance in her quest to break the Division I women’s scoring record of 3,527 career points. She’s currently 65 points behind Las Vegas Aces star Kelsey Plum, who set the mark in 2017 with 3,527 points in her career at Washington.

Record-pursuit aside, the Terps didn’t give Iowa an easy road to the win Saturday in College Park. Tied 76-76 midway through the fourth quarter, the Hawkeyes closed the game on a 17-9 run to secure the victory. That run was sparked by none other than Clark, who sunk a deep 3-pointer after a pump fake.

Iowa has now played in three of the five most-watched women’s college basketball games this season, as noted by The Athletic.

It comes with the territory for Clark, who powered Iowa to the national championship game last year. LSU and Angel Reese were victorious in the title contest, which also recorded historic viewership.

Iowa has a 21–2 record this season with March Madness just over a month away. But Clark still struggles to process how many fans she gained last year.

“It’s honestly, hard for me to wrap my head around. It’s crazy, it’s crazy the way people scream my name and really support us and I try to make time for as many of them as I can,” Clark said via the Associated Press. “Like whenever I walk off the court, it’s so special just the way people scream our names and are so excited for our team. And that’s something that never gets old. I was that kid a few years back, so it’s crazy how time flies and I just try to soak it all in, every single moment.”

Iowa set the tone for fans by hosting DePaul in an exhibition game in front of 55,646 people at Kinnick Stadium before the regular season. They nearly filled a football stadium for the basketball game and broke the attendance record for an NCAA women’s basketball contest.

Clark’s intrigue isn’t limited to home games though. She is followed by sold-out arenas on the road, nearly tripling audiences for many of her opponents, per data from the Associated Press. When those games sell out, tickets have been sold for thousands of dollars on the secondary market.

Ticket prices will only get higher as Clark nears the scoring record, which she is expected to break at home against Michigan on Feb. 15.

Iowa visits Nebraska on Sunday for Clark’s next game, which is set to air on Fox at 1 p.m. ET before the Super Bowl.

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