SBJ/20100823/This Week's News

WNBA hits postseason with mixed metrics

The WNBA last week was on track to cap its 2010 season with an increase in its regular-season television audience but a drop in average attendance compared with 2009.

The 2010 WNBA playoffs begin on Wednesday.

Average attendance for the 12-team league through last Wednesday was down 3.7 percent to an average of 7,679 fans per game, compared with last year’s average of 7,971 through the same date. The 2009 average includes teams in Detroit and Sacramento, markets that are no longer in the league. The Detroit Shock relocated this year to Tulsa, Okla.; the Sacramento Monarchs ceased operations.

Comparing only the 11 teams that played in both 2009 and 2010, average attendance was up 0.5 percent heading into the season’s final games this past weekend, WNBA officials said.

Through Wednesday, the New York Liberty was leading the league in attendance with an average of 10,895 fans per game. The Chicago Sky, who this season moved from the UIC-Pavilion to the suburban Allstate Arena, was last, with an average of 4,210. The biggest drop at the gate was in Washington, where the Mystics had seen their average attendance fall 19 percent, to 9,122 fans per game. Connecticut had posted the biggest increase, up 13 percent, to 7,486.

The WNBA this year signed new league partnerships with Jamba Juice, Coca-Cola and Pirate’s Booty snack food and doubled its number of team marquee deals, which include jersey sponsorships, to four. Microsoft’s Bing search engine signed a marquee deal with the Seattle Storm this year, while the New York Liberty signed a marquee deal with Foxwoods Casino. Those joined earlier deals for Phoenix with LifeLock and Los Angeles with Farmers Insurance Group.

WNBA President Donna Orender said the number of total team sponsorship deals increased about 20 percent.

“Over the past two seasons, our teams have been diligent in improving the business model,” Orender said.

On TV, the WNBA as of last week was averaging a 0.2 cable rating and 263,000 viewers over 17 games on ESPN2, compared with a 0.2 rating and 234,000 viewers for nine regular-season games on ESPN2 last year.

The league broadcast an additional 150 games on local team outlets this year compared with 61 local broadcasts in 2009.

“There has been more comprehensive coverage, and we firmly believe the quality of the game and presentation is getting better,” Orender said.

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