Nielsen: Women’s College Basketball Championship Draws Record-Breaking 18.9 Million Viewers

An estimated 18.9 million viewers watched the NCAA Women’s Basketball National Championship matchup between the University of South Carolina Gamecocks and the University of Iowa Hawkeyes on ABC and ESPN on Sunday, according to Nielsen live-plus-same-day data. Viewership peaked at 24.1 million viewers during the final minutes of the game (5 p.m.- 5:14 p.m. ET).

The women’s championship game audience stands as the largest in women’s college basketball history, and is the most-watched basketball game — at any level — since 2019. It is also the third women’s basketball viewership record set in the past week, outpacing the 12.3 million viewers that watched the Iowa-LSU Elite Eight matchup on April 1, followed by the Iowa-UConn Final Four game on April 5, which drew 14.2 million viewers.

Viewership to the 2024 women’s championship game was up over 90% compared with the 9.9 million viewers that watched in 2023, and over 288% compared with the 2022 audience.

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NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship Viewership: 1995 – 2024

Year

Date

Time (ET)

Network(s)

Matchup

Total Viewers P2+

2024

Apr. 7

3:00 PM

ABC, ESPN

S. CAR vs IOWA

18.8 million

2023

Apr. 2

3:30 PM

ABC, ESPN2

LSU vs IOWA

9.9 million

2022

Apr. 3

8:00 PM

ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU

UCONN vs S. CAR

4.85 million

2021

Apr. 4

6:00 PM

ESPN

AZ vs STAN

4.13 million

2019

Apr. 7

6:15 PM

ESPN

ND vs BAY

3.7 million

2018

Apr. 1

6:15 PM

ESPN

ND vs MSST

3.6 million

2017

Apr. 2

6:11 PM

ESPN

MSST vs SC

3.8 million

2016

Apr. 5

8:41 PM

ESPN

UCONN vs SYR

2.9 million

2015

Apr. 7

8:30 PM

ESPN

ND vs UCONN

3.1 million

2014

Apr. 8

8:30 PM

ESPN

ND vs UCONN

4.3 million

2013

Apr. 9

8:30 PM

ESPN

LOU vs UCONN

3.2 million

2012

Apr. 3

8:30 PM

ESPN

ND vs BAY

4.24 million

2011

Apr. 5

8:30 PM

ESPN

ND vs TAMU

3.8 million

2010

Apr. 6

8:19 PM

ESPN

STAN vs UCONN

3.5 million

2009

Apr. 7

8:30 PM

ESPN

UCONN vs LOU

2.7 million

2008

Apr. 8

8:30 PM

ESPN

STAN vs TENN

3.8 million

2007

Apr. 3

8:28 PM

ESPN

RUTG vs TENN

2.9 million

2006

Apr. 4

8:30 PM

ESPN

UMD vs DUKE

3.6 million

2005

Apr. 5

8:30 PM

ESPN

BAY vs MSU

3.23 million

2004

Apr. 6

8:28 PM

ESPN

UCONN vs TENN

5.6 million

2003

Apr .8

8:30 PM

ESPN

TENN vs UCONN

4.4 million

2002

Mar. 31

8:30 PM

ESPN

UCONN vs OKLA

5.7 million

2001

Apr. 1

8:30 PM

ESPN

ND vs PUR

3.7 million

2000

Apr. 2

8:59 PM

ESPN

TENN vs UCONN

3.7 million

1999

Mar. 28

8:58 PM

ESPN

DUKE vs PUR

5.13 million

1998

Mar. 29

8:30 PM

ESPN

LA TECH vs TENN

3.9 million

1997

Mar. 30

8:30 PM

ESPN

ODU vs TENN

4.6 million

1996

Mar. 31

6:30 PM

ESPN

TENN vs UGA

3.5 million

1995

Apr. 2

3:49 PM

CBS

UCONN vs TENN

7.4 million

Source: Nielsen

Time-shifted viewing (Live+Same-Day, 3am-3am) is included in audience estimates in this table for years 2006 and later. Estimates in 2005 and earlier include live viewing only.

The NCAA Tournament was canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sports Documentary ‘Stephen Curry: Underrated’ Premieres July 21

The A24 sports documentary Stephen Curry: Underrated will premiere in select theaters and globally for streaming on Apple TV+ July 21.

The film uses archival footage, on-camera interviews and intimate cinéma verité to trace the career path of Stephen Curry, from an undersized college player at small-town Division I college Davidson to four-time NBA champion with the Golden State Warriors.

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Universal Pictures to Debut LeBron James-Themed Movie ‘Shooting Stars’ on Peacock June 2

Universal Pictures and Peacock March 27 announced that the first look 30-second TV ad for the new feature film Shooting Stars — streaming on Peacock starting June 2 — will premiere during the 9 p.m. ET game of the 46th Annual McDonald’s All American Games on March 28, featuring the country’s top high school basketball players.

Shooting Stars, based on the book by LeBron James and the Pulitzer Prize winning author of “Friday Night Lights,” Buzz Bissinger, is the story of how LeBron James and his childhood friends at Catholic high school St. Vincent – St. Mary in Akron, Ohio, became the No. 1 high school team in the country, launching James’s career as a four-time NBA Champion, two-time Olympic Gold Medalist and the NBA’s all-time leading scorer.

The film, directed by Emmy nominee Chris Robinson (“Beats,” “Grown-ish”), stars five-star high school small forward Marquis “Mookie” Cook, in his film debut, as a young James.

Notably, Cook and James’s son, top-ranked guard Bronny James, will play together on the West team at the McDonald’s All American Games held at Toyota Center, home of the Houston Rockets, in Houston, Texas.

The game will air on ESPN. LeBron James played in the same game exactly 20 years ago, when he was in high school.

Shooting Stars is set in the 1990s, where a young James (Cook) and his three best friends — Lil Dru (Caleb McLaughlin, “Stranger Things”), Willie McGee (Avery S. Wills, Jr., “Swagger”) and Sian Cotton (Khalil Everage, “Cobra Kai”) — declare themselves the “Fab Four,” after the famed Michigan Wolverines’ “Fab Five” of that era.

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Under the guidance of coach Dru Joyce (Wood Harris, Creed), the movie showcases how the boys are connected by more than basketball. In their quest to become national champs, the young men rediscover that what matters most about the game is the people playing beside you.

The film’s screenplay is by Frank E. Flowers (Metro Manila) and Tony Rettenmaier (Space Jam: A New Legacy) and Juel Taylor (Creed II).

The film is produced by Academy Award nominee Rachel Winter (Dallas Buyers Club), Spencer Beighley (executive producer, Hustle), James, Maverick Carter (Space Jam: A New Legacy), Jamal Henderson (executive producer, “The Shop”) and Academy Award nominee and Emmy winner Terence Winter (“Boardwalk Empire”). The film is executive produced by Gretel Twombly.

Netflix and IOC to Bow Sports Doc ‘The Redeem Team’ Oct. 7

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Netflix have collaborated for a celebratory look at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball victory with the documentary The Redeem Team.

The documentary debuts globally on Netflix Oct. 7.

Using unprecedented Olympic footage and behind-the-scenes material, The Redeem Team tells the story of the U.S. Olympic men’s basketball team’s quest for gold at the Olympic Games Beijing 2008 following the previous team’s shocking performance four years earlier in Athens that brought only a bronze medal for third place. The documentary offers a portrait of team building and features interviews with athletes and coaches from Dwyane Wade and LeBron James to Mike “Coach K” Krzyzewski, who reflect on how the team set a new standard for American basketball.

The Redeem Team is an Olympic Channel, Kennedy/Marshall Company and Mandalay Sports Media production in association with 59th and Prairie Entertainment, UNINTERRUPTED, NBA Entertainment and USA Basketball.

This is Netflix’s first collaboration with the Olympic Channel, which is the media studio owned and operated by the IOC, and also marks the Olympic Channel’s first time producing a film exclusively for a global streaming service.

“The IOC has opened up their never-before-seen archives for this documentary, including basketball footage from the past 70 years of Olympic history,” according to a Netflix release.

The film is directed by Jon Weinbach, a producer, filmmaker, and writer who is also the president of Skydance Sports, a division of Skydance Media. He was formerly the executive producer and EVP of Mandalay Sports Media, a content venture founded in 2012 by Peter Guber and Mike Tollin. His portfolio at MSM included producing The Last Dance, executive producing The Comedy Store, and executive producing nine documentary films for the International Olympic Committee’s OTT platform, the Olympic Channel. Prior to joining Mandalay, he produced and wrote Producers Guild of America Award-nominated The Other Dream Team, and was also a staff reporter at The Wall Street Journal.

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The Redeem Team represents the very best of what the Olympics are all about,” Mark Parkman, GM of Olympic Channel Services, said in a statement. “This film will bring viewers directly inside that team and the Olympic Games Beijing 2008 by showcasing the personality and dynamics of a special group of superstars who came together as one to reclaim basketball supremacy on the biggest stage in sports.”

“In 2008, I played with heroes of mine, all stars, friends and future teammates,” said executive producer Dwyane Wade in a statement. “Outside of winning and showing the world that we were still the most dominant, our other big challenge was changing the perception of what everyone thought about the NBA and USA Basketball. I’m excited for everyone to get an opportunity to go behind the scenes and see all the work that went into this iconic team — The Redeem Team.”

Sports Doc ‘The Jackie Stiles Story’ Due on Digital Aug. 30, DVD Sept. 27 From Virgil

The sports documentary The Jackie Stiles Story will be released via VOD and digital sellthrough Aug. 30, and on DVD Sept. 27 from Virgil Films.

The documentary chronicles the career of Jackie Stiles, the greatest basketball player you’ve probably never heard of. It’s the story of a 5-foot-eight-inch girl from a small Kansas town, population 600, who became a basketball legend in the Midwest. Against all odds, Jackie became the all-time leading scorer in NCAA history, a record she held for 16 years. This feat was accomplished through hard work and unwavering determination.

Her coaches and teammates agree that Jackie’s work ethic will probably never be matched.

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Doc Series ‘The Long Game: Bigger Than Basketball’ About Makur Maker Debuting on Apple TV+ April 22

The five-part documentary series “The Long Game: Bigger Than Basketball,” chronicling the coming-of-age story of basketball phenom Makur Maker, will make its global debut April 22 on Apple TV+.

Seth Gordon (“Undefeated,” The King of Kong, “For All Mankind”) directs and executive produces the series, which follows Maker, the NBA hopeful who grabbed global headlines with his groundbreaking decision to forgo the NBA and play for Howard University, making him the highest-ranked high school player in the modern recruiting era to commit to a historically black university (HBCU). The docuseries is an intimate look at Maker’s life as a student-athlete with a dream of making it to the NBA, while unexpected physical challenges and a global pandemic threaten his college career.

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Off the courts, “The Long Game: Bigger Than Basketball” explores how Maker’s journey from fleeing war-torn South Sudan as a child and his tight-knit support system led him to go to an HBCU, and in turn, allowed him to make an impactful statement in the wake of America’s cultural response to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Basketball Story ‘Rise’ Hitting Disney+ in 2022

Rise, a Disney film based on the real life story of the Antetokounmpo basketball family, will debut on Disney+ in 2022.

The family produced the first trio of brothers to become NBA champions in the history of the league — Giannis and Thanasis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Laker Kostas Antetokounmpo. The Antetokounmpos mix Nigerian heritage, Greek nationality and extraordinary athletic ability. In Rise, audiences witness how one family’s vision, determination and faith lifted them out of obscurity to launch the career of three NBA champions — two-time MVP Giannis and his brothers, Thanasis and Kostas. Last season, Giannis and Thanasis helped bring the Bucks their first championship ring in 50 years, while Kostas played for the previous season champs, the Lakers.

After emigrating to Greece from Nigeria, Vera and Charles Antetokounmpo struggled to survive and provide for their five children, while living under the daily threat of deportation. With their oldest son still in Nigeria with relatives, the couple were desperate to obtain Greek citizenship but found themselves undermined by a system that blocked them at every turn. When they weren’t selling items to tourists on the streets of Athens with the rest of the family, encouraged by their father, the brothers would sneak away to play basketball with a local youth team. Latecomers to the sport, they discovered their great abilities on the basketball court and worked hard to become world class athletes. With the help of an agent, Giannis entered the NBA Draft in 2013 in a long shot prospect that would change not only his life but the life of his entire family.

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Newcomer Uche Agada and Ral Agada — also real-life brothers — portray young Giannis and Thanasis, with Jaden Osimuwa and Elijah Shomanke as their other two brothers, Kostas and Alex, respectively. The film stars Dayo Okeniyi (“Emperor,” “Shades of Blue”) and Yetide Badaki (“American Gods,” “This Is Us”) as their parents Charles and Vera, with Manish Dayal as Giannis’ tenacious agent Kevin and Taylor Nichols as John Hammond, general manager of the Milwaukee Bucks. Also in the cast are Maximiliano Hernandez, Eddie Cahill, Pilar Holland and McColm Kona Cephas Jr.

“I am thrilled and honored that Disney+ is bringing my family’s story to people all over the world,” Giannis Antetokounmpo said in a statement. “My hope is that it will inspire those in similar circumstances to keep the faith, stay true to their goals and not to give up on striving for a better life.”

Just as Giannis’ entering the Draft was a seminal moment for his family, Uche Agada’s being cast in Rise proved to be a seminal moment for the Agada family. Uche was working at a WaWa drive-thru in New Jersey when he saw a screenshot of an Instagram post from Giannis about a casting call for someone new and fresh to portray him in the film. Uche had to ask for time off from his job to do the series of auditions, and eventually won the role of Giannis. After being cast, he suggested that the filmmakers have his brother Ral audition for the role of Thiannis, which led to both Agada brothers portraying two of the Antekounmpo brothers in the film.

Space Jam: A New Legacy

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Warner;
Comedy;
Box Office $70.51 million;
$34.98 DVD, $39.98 Blu-ray, $49.98 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG’ for some cartoon violence and some language.
Stars LeBron James, Don Cheadle, Cedric Joe, Khris Davis, Sonequa Martin-Green, Ceyair J Wright, Harper Leigh Alexander, Sue Bird, Anthony Davis, Draymond Green, Damian Lillard, Klay Thompson, Nneka Ogwumike, Diana Taurasi.

Borrowing the same basic concept of its 1996 predecessor, Space Jam: A New Legacy dives into the realm of video games to bring the Looney Tunes back to the basketball court.

As with the original, the story involves an NBA player teaming up with Bugs Bunny and the gang in a high-stakes basketball game with dire consequences if they lose. The 1996 version starred Michael Jordan, who was recruited to help save the Tunes from being imprisoned by the owner of a cartoon amusement park planet.

The 21st century version of the premise involves LeBron James, the current era’s equivalent of a player with Jordan’s superstar stature. However, fans of the original film looking for another fun romp that doesn’t take itself too seriously will likely find themselves disappointed early in the proceedings, as A New Legacy quickly devolves into what is essentially a promotional reel for Warner Bros. IP.

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Space Jam: A New Legacy plays like a collaboration between the marketing departments of the NBA and WarnerMedia, resulting in a script that seems like it was developed by a PR committee that just finished a marathon of the original Space Jam, Ready Player One, Tron and the “Wreck-It Ralph” movies.

The story involves LeBron being recruited by Warner Bros., for a partnership involving a new slate of films in which he would be scanned into a computer and inserted into several movies created by a algorithm named Al G. Rhythm (given humanoid form by Don Cheadle) that controls the supercomputer where all Warner’s characters are stored.

LeBron’s reaction to this little piece of meta-commentary on Hollywood’s creative bankruptcy is to declare that the idea of athletes acting in movies is a bad idea, and thus Al’s proposal is stupid. The movie then proceeds to do exactly what it thinks it’s cleverly making fun of.

After Al takes offense to LeBron’s rejection, he somehow traps LeBron and his movie son, Dom (Cedric Joe), in the computer to get revenge.

Conveniently for the plot, 12-year-old Dom is some sort of genius video game designer, so Al steals his basketball video game as the arena for the contest that will allow LeBron to win his son back and earn their freedom.

For their team, the Goon Squad, Al and Dom create super-powered avatars based on some of the top NBA and WNBA players. All LeBron has to do is recruit a team of Warner Bros. characters to compete with them. His first instincts are to team up with the likes of Superman and King Kong, but then LeBron meets Bugs Bunny and his plans are derailed.

It seems Bugs is the only character left in the Looney Tunes section of the Warner Bros. Serververse (where each franchise has its own “world” that looks like a cartoon planet) because Al convinced the other Tunes their talents would be better served elsewhere. Daffy Duck, for example, hangs out in the DC Comics-based world posing as superman, complete with the John Williams theme.

Bugs uses LeBron’s predicament as an excuse to round up his friends on the pretense that they’re the ones being recruited to play. And thus, LeBron ends up teaming up with the Tune Squad for the big game, just like Mike 25 years earlier.

LeBron’s version, though, is more of a reboot or a remake than a sequel. It’s a completely standalone adventure that makes just a few passing references to the original while mostly ignoring its established worldbuilding. The original featured the Tunes as real-world characters living in their own realm beneath the surface of Earth (not unlike Toontown from Who Framed Roger Rabbit), while the bad guys were cartoon aliens from another planet, hence the “space” in Space Jam. The new iteration is more like “Cyberspace Jam” given how it pretty much all takes place in virtual reality.

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The creators of A New Legacy also appear to have misunderstood what made the story of the original work beyond the basic premise. The original film was as much the story of Jordan rediscovering his love of basketball as it was about the Looney Tunes playing alongside him. The movie famously chronicles Jordan’s real-life foray into an attempt to play professional baseball after he abruptly retired from the NBA following three championships. The film ties into this by having the evil aliens steal the talent from top NBA stars; as Jordan was away from basketball, his talent was left intact, leaving him for the Looney Tunes to recruit.

A New Legacy, on the other hand, has such a cut-and-paste story that they could have plugged nearly any marketable NBA player into it without it being fundamentally different, since the player’s family at the center of the story is entirely fictional. And then they chose LeBron James, one of the most unlikable players in the NBA, who in some metrics is considered the league’s most-hated player.

For the big game, the movie’s creators are essentially just playing a game of “spot the famous Warner Bros. character” in the audience, as the court is surrounded by extras dressed in recognizable costumes but who bear little resemblance to the original actors who played them (the guy dressed as Robin from the 1960s “Batman” show is especially distracting as he dances around every time he’s on camera).

As much as it all is an excuse for glitzy graphics and flashy colors, it should at the very least keep small children entertained.

The 4K disc doesn’t contain any extras. All of the extras are included on the regular Blu-ray Disc of the film.

The bonus materials primarily consist of about 28-minutes of behind-the-scenes featurettes split into four parts, like the quarters of a basketball game. They run seven to eight minutes each, focusing on LeBron’s involvement, the rest of the cast, the visual effects, re-creating classic Warner characters as background characters, and animating the Looney Tunes with CGI.

There are also five deleted scenes that run just under eight minutes and expand on some of the ideas in the film, including a jab at Cleveland.

Originally published as a streaming review July 18, 2021.

Tubi Ups ‘March Madness’ With Hoops Docs/Game Replays

NCAA’s college basketball post-season tournament (“March Madness”) officially starts on March 18. Fox Corp.’s free ad-supported streaming TV platform (FAST) Tubi is rolling out a line-up of documentaries and Fox Sports replays ahead of the tournament. 

Documentaries / Docuseries:

“CampusLore Live Basketball” (2020) – Hear from former and current NBA stars each week as they talk about their NCAA days and offer insight and analysis on today’s college game.1000 to 1: The Cory Weissman Story (2014) – Cory Weissman (David Henrie), a student at Gettysburg College, returns to the basketball court after suffering a stroke.”Life Without Basketball” (2019) – A controversial court ruling forces a Muslim American college basketball star to choose between her faith and her dreams to play professionally.

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“LeBron James: King of the Court” (2020) — The legendary basketball star showed promise back in high school, before going on to make a name for himself as one of the greatest in the game.

“Manchild: The Schea Cotton Story” (2020) — Celebrated for his basketball skills as a teenager, it seemed Schea Cotton had the world ahead of him. But things didn’t go as he imagined.”Ray Jr’s What If?: The Damon Stringer Story” (2020) – Known as Ohio’s Mr. Basketball in the early 90’s, this is the story of a talented high school athlete who faced many highs and lows.“Something to Cheer About” (2002) – This powerful sports documentary tells the story of the Crispus Attucks Tigers, the first all-black high school basketball team to win a US state championship.

Big Game Replays:

“Fox Sports College Basketball Classics: Big East” (2020) — A compilation of basketball classics from the Big East.”Fox Sports College Basketball Classics: BIG TEN” (2020) — Relive the biggest Big Ten matchup classics with Michigan St. at Indiana (2019), Iowa at Michigan (2019), Wisconsin at Ohio St. (2020), and more.”Fox Sports College Basketball Classics: PAC-12″ (2020) — Relive the biggest matchups of the Pac-12 Conference with UCLA at Washington (2020), USC at Arizona St. (2020), Stanford at Oregon (2020), and more.“Big Ten Classics: Basketball Championship Games” (2020) — Sit down, relax, and enjoy some of the best, most intense, and memorable moments from the Big Ten Men’s Basketball Championship games.”Big Ten Classics: Michigan vs. Michigan State” (2020) — The epic match-up between the Spartans and the Wolverines produced some of the most exciting, talked-about moments in college basketball.

Sports Doc ‘Eddie’ Hitting Digital March 9 From Lionsgate

Eddie, the story of legendary basketball coach Eddie Sutton, arrives on digital March 9 from Lionsgate.

The documentary follows the life and legacy of famed basketball coach Eddie Sutton, who coached across the universities of Arkansas, Kentucky and Oklahoma State, becoming one of the winningest coaches in sports history.

The film features interviews from notable names in basketball and pop culture, including former President of the United States Bill Clinton, former NBA basketball player Rex Chapman, owner of the Dallas Cowboys Jerry Jones, University of Kansas head coach and Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Bill Self, ESPN sportscaster and Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Dick Vitale, and basketball analyst and radio host Doug Gottlieb.

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Rooted in basketball, but exploring issues of substance abuse, father-son relationships and perseverance, the documentary follows the famed career of 800-win basketball coach Sutton. It revisits not only conference championships and numerous trips to the Final Four, but also the pains of addiction and the devastating 2001 Oklahoma State basketball team plane crash. The film ponders the conflicting attributes of a man with flaws shared by many and achievements matched by few.