For the first time, the semifinals and championship game will air on ESPN.
ESPN will air the entire 2020 NCAA Division I women’s basketball championship, the network announced Tuesday. The Final Four will be shown in primetime on ESPN while the first and second rounds of the women’s championship will be available nationally on ESPN’s television networks, eliminating regional blackouts.
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The move marks a step by ESPN to finally put forth similar efforts to market the women’s sport as it does to promote the men’s game, something that fans have been advocating for for years. In previous years, only the regionals, Final Four and Championship game were available nationally.
In March 2018, the NCAA and ESPN reached a $500 million deal that saw ESPN acquire the broadcast rights to 24 collegiate championships, including the NCAA women’s basketball tournament, until the 2023-24 season.
By contrast, the NCAA and CBS signed an $8.8 billion extension in 2016 just for the rights to the men’s basketball tournament through 2032. The broadcast rights to the men’s tournament per year are over $1 billion while the rights to the women’s tournament plus 23 other college tournaments equal just $35 million per year.
According to ESPN Vice President of Programming and Acquisitions Carol Stiff, ratings for the 2019 Women’s Final Four increased by 8%, which factored into the network’s decision to broadcast this year’s entire tournament on its channels.
“These changes will only further celebrate a great sport with a tremendous fan base,” Stiff said in the press release.
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