WNBA sees midseason upswing in TV numbers
As the WNBA hits its All-Star break this weekend, the league’s “3 to See” promotion featuring its trio of high-profile rookies is bringing returns both on TV and at the gate.
Through its first seven games on ESPN2 this season, the WNBA was averaging 252,000 viewers, up 34 percent from last year’s average across seven games. The second game of a season-opening Memorial Day weekend doubleheader this year (featuring Chicago and Phoenix) was the most-viewed WNBA game on ESPN2 in nine years, delivering 455,000 viewers.
Chicago and Phoenix boast two of the league’s touted rookies in Elena Delle Donne and Brittney Griner, respectively. Joined by Tulsa’s Skylar Diggins, the rookies became the focal point for the WNBA’s 2013 marketing efforts dubbed “3 to See” even before they’d played their first games.
Fans in their home markets have taken note: Each of the rookie’s teams has seen an increase in attendance this year, with double-digit gains in Phoenix and Chicago (see chart below).
Leaguewide, attendance comparisons to 2012 are difficult. The WNBA last year started its season earlier than usual and took a monthlong midseason break so players could compete in the Olympics. The league this year was averaging 7,461 fans per game across 84 games through July 15. That compares to 7,752 fans per game through July 15 last year, when the league had already played 111 games. Through 84 games last year, the league was averaging 7,437 fans per game.
The league ended 2012 with a 7,457 per-game average, a record low. “We have a slight increase in attendance, and a lot has to do with when teams have school and camp days,” said WNBA President Laurel Richie of this year’s numbers. “They have a big impact.”
On NBA TV, the WNBA was averaging 65,000 viewers over 11 broadcasts through July 11. That’s up 86 percent compared to last season’s average through the same date, but that was for only a three-game average last season. The eleventh game on NBA TV last season did not occur until Aug. 24 because of the Olympics break.
This year’s All-Star Game is scheduled for Saturday at Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut, with the game on ABC.