SBJ/September 1 - 7, 2003/This Weeks Issue

WNBA ratings slip marginally

The WNBA didn't exactly set any television ratings records this season, but it at least proved consistent, with ratings off just a tad on average.

ABC averaged a 0.8 rating for seven telecasts including the All-Star Game (see chart), while ESPN2 averaged a 0.24 cable rating for 10 games, including one rebroadcast. The Oxygen network, in its second year of a two-year deal to carry the league, posted a rating of 0.20 for 13 games.

The ESPN2 ratings hold their own when compared with many other sports properties on the network, such as the NHL, which averaged a 0.23 during the regular season, or MLS, which has averaged a 0.19 this year.

The WNBA's audience is split almost evenly between men and women, a breakdown that might not be as appealing to advertisers as the male-heavy audience for men's sports.

One of ESPN's motives for carrying the WNBA is to attract female viewers and support women's athletics.

"Ideally, we'd love to see ratings improve, but in this case it's not all about ratings," said Carol Stiff, a director of programming and acquisitions at ESPN. "It's really about our commitment to women's sports and the league."

ESPN and ABC just finished the first year of a six-year agreement to carry both the NBA and WNBA. With the WNBA, the league sells all the advertising and shares revenue with the networks.

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ABC, Basketball, ESPN, NBA, This Week's Issue, WNBA

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