The enormity of the world-record-setting crowd that gathered in Lincoln, Nebraska, two weeks cannot be understated: Ninety-two-thousand-and-three fans paid to watch women’s college volleyball in a football stadium!
Equally as meaningful is the aftershock of the ratings on cable TV generated by that ground-breaking match.
The atmosphere was electric at Memorial Stadium on that unforgettable Wednesday night. The fans had a blast. The sea of Nebraska red made for sensational Kodak moments (or our photo gallery by Matt Smith). That it set a record as the largest crowd to watch women’s sports event in history made headline news on TV and in mainstream publications, generating invaluable exposure for the sport
Television viewership that reflected what legendary announcer Paul Sunderland called a “seismic event” for volleyball. Big Ten Network was “elated” when the overnights from the Nielsen scientific survey showed that 518,000 total-average viewers had tuned in, senior vice president for programming and digital media Michael Calderon told Volleyball Magazine.
Such an audience seems likely to set the tone for a season of collegiate women’s volleyball on TV that includes more matches on high-profile linear platforms and culminates with over-the-air ABC broadcasting the NCAA final for the first time.
“Not in my wildest dreams did I think we would crack 500,000 for this match,” Calderon admitted. “I knew it was a big story, a really important moment for women’s volleyball and women’s sports in general. It was really cool in the moment, in the event, just to see all the social commentary and social reactions, the pictures and the video that people were circulating and that we were pushing out on our social channels.
“I started to feel toward the end of the night this might actually be a much bigger number than we were expecting. I was hoping for 250,000-300,000, which would have been a really successful event for us. So we were thrilled when this became our second volleyball match to exceed 500,000.
“The first one was last year on Black Friday, Nebraska-Wisconsin for the Big Ten championship, which did 587,000,” Calderon noted. “That was a really meaningful match and it followed a Nebraska-Iowa football game. This was a stand-alone Wednesday night (non-conference) match with no lead-in. We hadn’t even televised a football game to promote it on.”
Over a 38-year career in broadcasting, the venerable…