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Volume 21 No. 22
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ESPN’s new deal doubles rights fee

My friends Terry Lefton and John Lombardo uncovered an interesting nugget in their excellent piece on the WNBA’s 20th season in this week’s issue.

I was surprised to learn that ESPN has committed to pay the women’s basketball league a rights fee of about $25 million a year starting next season. That equates to about $2 million a team — or double what ESPN had been paying the WNBA. In 2013, ESPN and the WNBA agreed to a six-year extension valued at $12 million that would run through 2022. As ESPN renegotiated its NBA deal in 2014, it opened up the WNBA deal, as well.

Last season, the WNBA averaged 202,000 viewers during the regular season across ESPN and ESPN2, down 14 percent from the previous year. For the final series between the Minnesota Lynx and Indiana Fever, ESPN averaged 502,000 viewers across five games on ABC (one game), ESPN (one game) and ESPN2 (three games).

— John Ourand