The NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship game will be broadcast live on ABC for the first time in 2023 on April 2 at American Airlines Center in Dallas, a move that comes after years of lobbying by supporters of the women’s game to give the championship game a bigger showcase.
“Scheduling the Division I Women’s Basketball Championship on ABC has been a goal for quite some time in our ongoing efforts to maximize the exposure of women’s sports in collaboration with the NCAA,” said Burke Magnus, ESPN president, programming and original content. “Women’s NCAA Championships continue to generate strong audiences across the ABC/ESPN networks and this move represents yet another unique opportunity to showcase this marquee event and the student-athletes who are competing for a national championship.”
The 2023 Women’s Final Four semifinal matchups will air on ESPN at 7 and 9:30 p.m. on Friday, March 31. ESPN aired NCAA Tournament games on ABC for the first time in 2021, with two first round matchups and four Sweet 16 contests on the network. The trend continued in 2021-22 season with the addition of two regular season matchups on ABC, as well as a number of tournament games.
The 2022 Women’s Basketball Championship game, featuring South Carolina vs. UConn on ESPN was the most-viewed women’s title game in nearly two-decades with 4.85 million viewers as South Carolina captured the program’s second national title in five years. The national semifinals averaged 2.7 million viewers, up 21 percent year-over-year, and was the most-viewed semifinals in a decade. The full tournament averaged 634,000 viewers, up 16 percent from last year’s coverage.
“It’s a benchmark announcement for women’s basketball in being able to showcase the national championship game in Dallas for an expanded audience on ABC for the first time in 2023,” said Beth Goetz, chair of the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Committee and director of athletics at Ball State. “We are grateful to ABC/ESPN for the partnership in the continued growth of the game and championship.”
The announcement comes on the heels of the NCAA’s decision to move the championship regional rounds to a two-host format with eight competing teams playing at Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, South Carolina, and eight at Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle. The committee determined each site would host two regional semifinal games March 24 and two March 25. In addition, each site will host a regional championship game March 26 and one March 27. Earlier rounds will be held at home venues for the top-ranked teams.
The First Four opening-round games of the 2023 championship will take place March 15–16 on the campuses of teams seeded in the top 16, as it was in 2022. The First Four, first and second rounds, and Selection Sunday will continue to be conducted in this format through 2027, with the committee conducting a preliminary-round format review after the 2025 championship.
The Division II and Division III championship games also will take place in Dallas on the same weekend as the Division I Final Four. It’s the first time that the three championships have been played in the same city since 2016.