The Iowa-Penn State duo was the most-watched wrestling broadcast of all time on BTN

It turns out that people really like watching Iowa and Penn State battle it out.

On Tuesday, Big Ten Network reported that last Friday’s doubleheader between No. 2 Iowa and No. 1 Penn State averaged 363,000 viewers, making it the most-watched wrestling broadcast ever. of the network’s history, according to Nielsen Media Research.

“It was a privilege to be part of a record night!” wrote Shane Sparks, BTN’s senior wrestling commentator, who shared the news on Twitter on Tuesday. “Incredible!!”

The previous record happens to be the last time the Hawkeyes and Nittany Lions met, in January 2020, for a show that averaged 342,955 viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research.

This means that last Friday’s double recorded a 5.5% increase in total viewership. Iowa outscored Penn State, 19-17, in this 2020 meeting. The Nittany Lions got their revenge last Friday, winning 19-13.

“It’s great for the sport,” Iowa coach Tom Brands said Tuesday. “We love attention, but these things are earned. We have great guys who take pride in competing hard.

“When you do that and you have a team that embodies those same things in their fight, you’re going to have two titans that are going to be watched by a lot of people.”

BTN’s live wrestling coverage continues this weekend with a doubleheader on Friday: Penn State-Ohio State at 6 p.m. CST, then Nebraska-Michigan at 8 p.m. CST. On Saturday, Iowa hosts Wisconsin at 2:30 p.m. CST. On Sunday, Penn State hosts Nebraska at 11 a.m. CST.

Here is some additional context for these viewing figures:

BTN also announced on Tuesday that 175,000 viewers tuned in to “The B1G Story: The Brands Brothers” after last Friday’s duel. The documentary details the life and wrestling career of Iowa trainers Tom and Terry Brands.

It’s also a new ratings record for BTN’s original programming. The previous mark was held by an episode of “On The Mat” with 146,000 viewers. The documentary will air again on Friday, February 4 at 12 p.m. CST.

“Kevin Ritchie, the producer, is awesome,” Tom Brands said last week. “It’s good. Kevin Ritchie did a good job.

BTN has seen its wrestling viewership jump significantly in recent years. Last season, BTN said the average viewership for double shows rose to 150,262, up 23% from the 2019-20 season’s average of 122,073.

Compare: The 2019-20 men’s basketball season averaged 223,749 spectators per game on BTN, the most-watched regular season in BTN’s history.

The 2021 Big Ten Wrestling Championship Finals was previously the most-watched wrestling telecast in BTN history, with 324,322 viewers — a 29% jump from the 2020 Big Ten Championships, the previous record. It also more than doubled viewership for the Big 12 Championship Finals, which aired the same day in a different timeslot on ESPN2.

Again, to compare: The 2021 Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament averaged 528,220 viewers per game, culminating in this Iowa-Wisconsin quarterfinal game.

Last season was unique as the COVID-19 pandemic limited the total number of attendees at these events. But Brands credited BTN for playing a role in wrestling’s overall growth in popularity in recent years.

“I think Big Ten Network has a lot to do with it,” Brands said Tuesday. “There is a lot of access for viewing. It’s linear. It’s real TV. This is not a subscription.

“It’s something that you can sit in your living room and you scroll through the channels and all of a sudden something pops up on your screen and there’s a craziness going on, and it gets people’s attention. people.”

In addition to airing more duels and developing more wrestling documentaries, BTN has increased its wrestling coverage across all of its digital platforms over the past few years.

BTN has grown its presence on YouTube with full matches, duels and its storytelling series titled “On The Mat”. BTN also launched an in-studio wrestling show called “B1G Wrestling and Beyond” which airs once a week and features Sparks and Rick Pizzo talking about all things Big Ten wrestling.

It also helps that the Big Ten is home to the best teams in the country. In InterMat’s latest Division I poll, five Big Ten teams are in the top 10 — No. 1 Penn State, No. 2 Iowa, No. 3 Michigan — and 10 are in the top 20.

“We’re huge wrestling fans on the network,” Michael Calderon, BTN’s senior vice president of programming and digital media, previously told the Register. He added that wrestling is BTN’s third highest rated sport, behind football and men’s basketball.

“We see ourselves as the gatekeepers of the sport, from a media perspective,” Calderon continued, “and we want to see it succeed and grow and we’re going to do our part.”

Their work is noticed by all.

“The Big Ten Network is doing a really, really good job delivering content,” Iowa wrestler Alex Marinelli said Tuesday. “The Big Ten, in general, is the best college wrestling conference. They lead the country when it comes to social media presence.

“(The record number of viewers) is huge for Iowa, but also for wrestling in general and the Big Ten. It’s big for our guys, putting us on the big screen. It’s a big deal, putting our struggle in a lot of people’s living rooms. It’s really cool.”

Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.