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WNBA TV audiences up 67% at 2023 season’s halfway point

ABC, CBS, ESPN and ESPN2 averaging 556k viewers per game as league trends towards most watched regular season in more than 20 years.

17 Jul 2023 Josh Sim

Getty Images

  • WNBA’s partnership revenue has achieved double-digit growth this year
  • WNBA League Pass package has seen a 19% increase in subscriptions
  • NBA icon Dwayne Wade confirms minority investment in the Chicago Sky

The Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) is headed towards a record-breaking season for viewership, attendance, digital engagement and merchandise sales.

The league, now at the halfway point of the 2023 campaign, reported that viewership for nationally-televised games is up 67 per cent over last year across ABC, CBS, ESPN and ESPN2. With an average audience of 556,184 per game, this year is on track to become the most-watched regular season across the league’s networks in more than 20 years. The most-watched game this season was the Los Angeles Sparks’ win over the Dallas Wings on 25th June, which averaged 733,000 viewers on ABC.

The WNBA’s growing popularity is also evident through the 27 per cent uptick in attendances across the league this year compared with the same stage of the 2022 season. The competition is set to achieve its highest average attendance since 2018, with more than 787,000 fans attending regular season games so far in 2023.

In terms of sponsor revenue, the league said it has reached double-digit growth this year, which is at an all-time high. It has also seen overall sales of merchandise at the NBA Store in New York surge by 78 per cent year-over-year (YoY).

Meanwhile, the WNBA App has seen its monthly active users increase by 147 per cent YoY. The league also has recorded 155 million video views at this stage of the season, which is 84 per cent of the total views amassed for the entirety of last year’s regular season. Additionally, the WNBA’s out-of-market League Pass package has seen subscriptions grow by 19 per cent so far this season, compared to the mid-way point of last year.

The impressive figures for the WNBA come as National Basketball Association (NBA) legend Dwayne Wade confirmed he has joined the ownership group of the Chicago Sky, taking a minority stake of an undisclosed size. According to Sportico, the transaction values the Sky at US$85 million – the same as last month’s move to bring in brought in eight new investors

The Sky become the second basketball franchise Wade has invested in, following his purchase of a stake in the NBA’s Utah Jazz in 2021, although the deal remains subject to formal approval by the WNBA’s board of governors.

“We all talk about support, and support looks different for everyone,” Wade said to ESPN.  “And so instead of tweeting out and saying ‘go support the W,’ instead of showing up at the game and supporting, I wanted to take it to that next level, and this was the next level for me.

“It’s a great opportunity to be a part of the league in its very early stages.

“Growth is going to happen, and so I want to be a part of the growth of this league.”

SportsPro says…

The WNBA continues to see its popularity grow rapidly, which is reflected in the strong figures so far this season for viewership, attendances and digital engagement. The latter comes after the league transformed its digital operations via the US$75 million of investment raised last year.

Evidently, its growth has helped the league attract new sponsors, with Mielle the latest to become a partner of the competition. Technology giant Google, which is one of the WNBA’s ‘Changemakers’, recently confirmed it has extended its deal with the league to further underlines its appeal.

Wade’s investment also shows the recognition of the WNBA’s rising value, as he joins the likes of National Football League (NFL) icon Tom Brady and Los Angeles Lakers legend Magic Johnson as a franchise minority owner. As the WNBA’s revenue continues to grow, this will only continue to attract more investment.

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