Caitlin Clark Helping ESPN, Sportsbooks: How Iowa's Success In NCAA Tournament Could Help Women's Sports

Zinger Key Points
  • Strong fan interest in Iowa women's basketball and star Caitlin Clark is helping media partners and sportsbooks.
  • What comes next for Clark after college, whether it's the WNBA or BIG3, could also benefit media companies.

The NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament recently kicked off and thanks to the star power of several players, including University of Iowa's Caitlin Clark, the media coverage of the event and sports betting companies could benefit.

Record-Breaking Viewership: Caitlin Clark, a senior, set several records during the 2023-2024 NCAA Women's Basketball season and she might not be done yet. While the Men's Basketball tournament is getting the spotlight for March Madness, Clark is helping bring more attention to the women's tournament.

Iowa won its first two games in this year's tournament and helped set impressive viewership figures along the way. A 1-seed in the Albany 2 region, Iowa defeated 16-seed Holy Cross in the opening round 91-65 and defeated 8-seed West Virginia University 64-54 in the second round.

The game against Holy Cross saw an average of 3.23 million viewers on ABC, a unit of Walt Disney Co DIS. The second-round game between Iowa and West Virginia saw an average of 4.9 million viewers on Disney-owned ESPN, according to SportsMediaWatch.

Those two games now rank as the most viewed women's basketball tournament games outside of the Final Four. Ranking third is last year's Elite 8 game featuring Iowa, which had 2.50 million viewers.

Peak viewership for the second-round game was 6.4 million viewers, ranking third over the past 20 years for all women's tournament games, trailing only last year's National Championship game between Iowa and Louisiana State University (9.92 million) and last year's semifinal matchup between Iowa and University of South Carolina (5.60 million).

Disney might be rooting for Clark and Iowa to keep advancing as the team sees record-breaking viewership and brings more eyes to the women's tournament.

The next Iowa game is Saturday, March 30, between Iowa and the 5-seed University of Colorado at 3:30 p.m. ET and will air on ABC.

Related Link: March Madness 2024: Betting Odds, How To Watch NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, Use Data To Predict Winner

Sports Betting Impact: While Disney is rooting for Iowa to continue doing well, sportsbooks will also be rooting for Iowa to keep progressing but may also be rooting against Iowa to win the championship.


DraftKings Inc DKNG CEO Jason Robins told Benzinga that more women are betting on the platform, with Clark one of the factors in this growth. Robins said DraftKings has seen a 9x to 10x increase in betting handle year-over-year on women's basketball.

At DraftKings, Iowa is a 7.5 point favorite to beat Colorado Saturday. The only player offered for player props is Clark, with over/under lines of 32.5 for points, 5.5 for three-pointers made, 7.5 for rebounds and 8.5 for assists.

Clark averaged 31.8 points, 7.3 rebounds, 8.8 assists and 5.2 three-pointers during the season. The two tournament games saw Clark have 40 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 5 three-pointers and 27 points, 8 rebounds, 10 assists and 3 three-pointers, respectively.

DraftKings is also offering betting on when Clark will break the all-time three-pointers made record, currently railing the record of 537 by nine. The favorite is in the Elite 8 at +120, which doesn't break the record at +200. Breaking the record Saturday in the Sweet 16 pays out at +3,000 if she can make 10 three-pointers.

Iowa is listed as the second-best odds to win the NCAA Women's Tournament at +750, trailing only South Carolina at -150. Iowa is the biggest liability by number of tickets for FanDuel, BetMGM and ESPN Bet to win the championship, according to ESPN.

What's Next: Eligible for a fifth year at Iowa and a chance to break more records, Clark announced recently that she would be leaving the school to enter the WNBA Draft.

Clark's entry into the WNBA could provide a boost to the league's media partners, including Disney and EW Scripps SSP.

On Wednesday, TMZ announced that Ice Cube's BIG3 basketball league made a $5 million offer to Clark to join the league. According to sources, the offer was for eight regular season games and potentially two playoff games.

TMZ reported that the BIG3 would allow Clark to also play in the WNBA and would provide additional compensation from merchandising and sponsorships. The Indiana Fever, who are likely drafting Clark first overall, have two regular season games that could interfere with the BIG3 schedule.

Playing in the BIG3 would allow Clark the chance to prove herself against men's basketball players and would also likely provide a boost to media partner Paramount Global PARAPARAA for the Ice Cube-owned league.

"BIG3 made a historic offer to Caitlin Clark. Why wouldn't we? Caitlin is a generational athlete who can achieve tremendous success in the BIG3," Ice Cube tweeted.

Ice Cube said the league has already broke barriers with former women's basketball player Nancy Lieberman and Lisa Leslie winning league titles in the BIG3 and having the first female coaches of men's professional teams.

"With our offer, Caitlin Clark can make history and break down even more barriers for women athletes."

Ice Cube also said women should have more opportunities to play in the U.S. instead of having to play overseas during the WNBA offseason "just to make ends meet."

Read Next: Much Wow: Largest Commercial Dogecoin Transaction Ever Buys BIG3 Basketball Team

Photo: Caitlin Clark, photo by JD Scott-MGoBlog via Flickr Creative Commons

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Posted In: Sports BettingSportsABCBig3Caitlin ClarkESPNIce CubeMarch MadnessNCAANCAA Men's Basketball TournamentNCAA Women's BasketballStories That MatterWNBA
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