NCAA women’s volleyball hit another TV ratings home run on Saturday night when the ballyhooed showdown between Nebraska and Wisconsin became the most-watched volleyball match in the history of Big Ten Network.
As the nation’s top-ranked teams, both undefeated, battled in a 190-minute, five-set thriller, the total-average viewership was 612,000, according to the overnight Nielsen ratings reported by the @SportsTVRatings site.
Volleyball exceeded 600K for the first time on BTN, topping the 587,000 that had tuned in for the Nebraska-Wisconsin match on Black Friday, November 25, in 2022. Live volleyball matches on BTN, which has a “reach” of roughly 48 million subscribers, averaged 126,000 viewers in 2022.
The epic tussle on Saturday night, won by the host Huskers (15-13 in the tie-breaking set), had lured a record crowd of 9,198 to the Bob Devaney Center in Lincoln, which has sold out for volleyball 317 consecutive times. The huge throng of red-clad Nebraska supporters created a sizzling atmosphere for TV viewers and the torrid competition between the then-No. 1 Badgers and No. 2 Huskers likely kept them from flipping the channel.
The volleyball on Saturday topped Big Ten Network’s live events in viewership, beating out the Northwestern-Nebraska football game, which attracted 560,000 in the late afternoon slot, and the 232,000 that watched the early football game between Rutgers and Indiana.
It’s incredibly significant when women’s volleyball draws more eyeballs than football, particularly this deep in the season when conference games are involved.
BTN had given the Nebraska-Wisconsin plenty of promo time during its football telecasts, including a lengthy segment with volleyball analyst Emily Ehman (a regular on VolleyballMag.com’s NCAA Zoom chats with VBM editor Lee Feinswog) during halftime of the Northwestern-Nebraska game from Lincoln.
Another boffo volleyball viewership for Big Ten Network could be in store when it airs the rematch between Nebraska and Wisconsin from the UW Field House in Madison, again on Black Friday, November 23, at 3 p.m. Central. Round 2 between the red-hot rivals likely will determine the Big Ten title.
A viewership of 612,000 in the middle of football season came on the heels of the 518,000 that watched Nebraska’s non-conference outdoor volleyball match in late August that attracted 92,003 fans to…