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WNBA finals TV ratings up 42% on 2019 season

US women’s basketball league nets most viewed finals since 2017 across ESPN and ABC.

22 October 2021 Ed Dixon

Getty Images

  • Average 548k viewers tune in over the four games
  • Audience up 23% on disrupted 2020 season
  • WNBA achieves most-viewed postseason since 2014

The Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) scored its most viewed finals since 2017 via domestic broadcast partner Disney, with an average 548,000 viewers tuning in across the four games on ESPN and ABC.

The audience for the Chicago Sky’s victory over the Phoenix Mercury represented a 23 per cent increase from the disrupted 2020 season, which pulled in 447,000 average viewers in three games. The 2021 finals were also up 42 per cent from 2019, the last uninterrupted full campaign, which managed 386,000 average viewers in five games.

Game one on 10th October, which was shown on ABC, was the most-viewed opening game of the WNBA finals since 2017, registering 456,000 viewers and peaking with 547,000.

The next game, broadcast by ESPN on 13th October, became the most-viewed game two since 2003 and the most-viewed finals game since 2017’s game five. The showdown recorded 789,000 viewers, peaking at one million for the primetime presentation.

ESPN2 broadcast game three on 15th October, which racked up 524,000 viewers and peaked at 591,000, making it the most-viewed non-title-clinching game three since the 2007 WNBA finals.

The deciding game two days later, shown by ESPN, registered 417,000 viewers and peaked with 623,000 viewers, up 32 per cent from 2019’s game four between the Connecticut Sun and the Washington Mystics.

The WNBA also achieved its most-viewed postseason since 2014. Across 17 games, the 2021 playoffs averaged 367,000 viewers, 63 per cent higher than the entire 2020 postseason (226,000 average viewers) and 42 per cent higher than 2019 (258,000 average viewers).

Last month, ESPN confirmed its regular season coverage of the WNBA saw ratings up 24 per cent on 2019. The Disney-owned sports broadcast giant said the US-based women’s basketball league averaged 306,000 viewers per game.

Meanwhile, in the NBA, the league’s opening game on ESPN between the New York Knicks and the Boston Celtics averaged 1.96 million viewers and peaked with 2.87 million viewers, according to Nielsen ratings.

The network’s coverage on the night also included the Phoenix Suns versus the Denver Nuggets, which averaged 1.74 million viewers.

The figures for the two games made it ESPN’s most-watched season-opening doubleheader since 2017.

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