Caitlin Clark-Diana Taurasi matchup becomes second most-watched WNBA game on ESPN

The Rookie versus The GOAT produced some viewership magic for the WNBA.

Last week’s much-anticipated meeting between Caitlin Clark and Diana Taurasi turned out to be a big ratings winner. The Indiana Fever’s 88-82 win over the Phoenix Mercury on June 30 averaged 1.9 million viewers, the second most-watched WNBA game in the history of ESPN only behind the Fever against the Chicago Sky on June 23 (which averaged 2.302 million viewers on ESPN and was the most-watched WNBA game in 23 years). The Fever-Mercury game peaked at 2.7 million viewers. (WNBA games airing on ABC have naturally drawn more viewers but this is a very impressive number for a cable-only game.)

What makes this particularly interesting, as Sports Media Watch first noted: The game was the most-watched WNBA game to ever involve Taurasi, who first entered the league in 2004. Sports Media Watch noted Taurasi’s previous most-watched WNBA game was her career debut against Connecticut in May 2004 which averaged 1.43 million viewers. The most-watched non-WNBA game featuring Taurasi came in 2012 when 10.2 million viewers watched the U.S. women win gold in London on NBC.

The league has been fueled to new viewership heights this season, led by Clark and a rookie class casual sports fans have shown interest in. Sports Media Watch noted the Fever-Mercury was the ninth WNBA game this season to average at least one million viewers and that number will unquestionably finish in double digits after the league entered the season having gone nearly 16 years without a game drawing more than a million viewers. The next game to top one million viewers will come either Tuesday when the Fever play the Las Vegas Aces on ESPN or Saturday when the Fever host the New York Liberty on CBS (which will surely hit seven figures).

ESPN said the WNBA is up 183 percent in viewership over last season versus its viewership at this time last season (thanks, Caitlin) and its “WNBA Countdown” pregame show has averaged 503,000 viewers across ABC, ESPN and ESPN2, up 111 percent versus last year’s average.

Required reading

(Photo: Chris Coduto / Getty Images)

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