SBJ/Aug. 18-24, 2014/Leagues and Governing Bodies

WNBA expects at least six teams to post profit

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After a regular season marked by two new major promotional efforts, the WNBA expects to see at least six of its 12 teams post a profit for 2014, the same number of clubs as last year.

Final league revenue won’t be known until after the postseason ends next month, but league President Laurel Richie said last week that the WNBA expects to see the number of profitable clubs match the count from last year. She said deals with new league sponsors Diageo, Samsung and Essence that brought a single-digit increase in overall league sponsorship revenue paid dividends financially for the league’s clubs, as well.

San Antonio, Minnesota, Connecticut, Indiana, Phoenix and Seattle were the league’s six profitable teams last year.

“I’m optimistic on that front, and we still have the playoffs,” Richie said. “Our partnership revenue is up from last

Viewership on ESPN2 this year was up for the second consecutive season. Meanwhile, the league saw gains from its new WNBA Pride campaign.
Photo by: NBAE / GETTY IMAGES (2)

year, [and] we have the extension with ESPN and the revenues associated with it.”

The WNBA and ESPN last year signed a six-year extension of their TV deal, to run through 2022, valued at $12 million per year.

Viewership on ESPN2 this year was up for the second consecutive season. The WNBA averaged 240,000 viewers over 19 games this year compared with an average of 231,000 viewers over 13 games last year. In 2012, the league averaged 180,000 viewers over nine games.

On NBA TV, the WNBA this year was averaging 53,000 viewers over 34 games through last Tuesday. That compares with 51,000 viewers over 45 games last year.

Beyond media, the league this year looked to raise its profile with its new WNBA Pride campaign, aimed at the LGBT community, and its Summer Hoops initiative. In terms of results, the league’s Pride T-shirt led all NBA merchandise sales during the first week of sales back in May. Meanwhile, at the gate, the league was averaging 7,452 fans per game this year as of last Thursday, with 13 games to go in its 204-game regular season. Through the same number of games in 2013, the league was averaging 7,439 fans per game.

Last year, for the full season, the WNBA averaged 7,531 fans per game, up from an average of 7,457 in 2012 that was the league’s all-time low. League officials last week said they expected the final regular-season numbers for this year to be flat compared with last year.

The league now looks to find traction for its postseason, with playoff games starting on Thursday. A 30-second spot promoting the playoffs began running on NBA TV last week and will continue on both ESPN and NBA TV throughout the postseason. Plans also call for an ESPN-produced radio spot and digital ads on WNBA.com, NBA.com, ESPN.com, Google, Facebook, SI.com and Essence.com.

In addition, ESPN plans to feature ABC’s broadcast of Game 1 of the WNBA Finals on its Times Square super sign, a first for the league. It also marks the first WNBA Finals game on ABC since 2010.

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