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WNBA Viewership Trending In The Right Direction

Recently the Women’s National Basketball Association has received a great deal of media attention, but unfortunately, the press coverage stems from a terrible occurrence and a heavy dose of public scrutiny. The adverse situation that has commanded worldwide attention is the legal issues of one of the WNBA’s biggest stars.

Brittney Griner

Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner was arrested in February 2022 at the Sheremetyevo Airport outside of Moscow. When Griner made an attempt to walk through customs, a sniffer dog led authorities to search Griner’s carry-on luggage. She was arrested for allegedly possessing cannabis vape cartridges containing the marijuana concentrate hashish oil. On August 4th, the 31-year-old Griner was sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison after being found guilty of drug possession and smuggling.

 

The basketball star has filed for an appeal, and she is also a part of ongoing negotiations regarding a potential prisoner swap. The reason Griner was in Russia was due to the fact that playing pro basketball overseas is more lucrative for female players. Most WNBA players travel overseas during the off-season to earn salaries up to one million dollars. The pay scale in the WNBA is part of the second reason why the league has spent a significant amount of time in the media spotlight.

The Numbers

A topic of discussion that has floated around the media and also on social media is the pay, or for better words, the lack of pay the female basketball players receive. For the past couple of years, WNBA players have pointed out the difference between their compensation and what NBA players make. For example, the WNBA’s salary cap, meaning the maximum allowed total salary of all the players a team has on the books is 1.3 million, while the NBA salary cap is $123 million.

 

To dive deeper into the numbers, the highest-paid WNBA player makes $231,000 per season, and LeBron James makes $44 million per season. The topic became noteworthy when gender was signaled out as the blame for the disparity in numbers. What some fail to realize is the difference in pay between men’s and women’s professional basketball isn’t a gender issue, it’s a result of profitable business. The NBA is profitable every year, and the WNBA loses money on an annual basis.

 

The NBA generates $8 billion yearly in revenue, while the WNBA generates $60 million. The numbers also illustrate a large gap in regards to fan participation as more eyes are on the  NBA games both in-person and on the television screen. The difference in the numbers is the catalyst to the constructive criticism this topic has received from the media and on social media.

 

The Facts

Men, in particular, have been highly critical of the subject because the numbers support the reality. They also voice their opinions of the NBA being a more exciting brand of basketball. The salary topic really hit the media blogs when famous comedians such as Dave Chappelle and Bill Burr voiced their opinions on the subject. Bill Burr had the most eye-catching quotes as he blamed feminists for the shortcomings of the WNBA. “It’s a male-subsidized league. We gave you your f***king league, none of you showed up,” Burr stated during his Netflix special.

Despite the history of subpar numbers, the WNBA is currently showing progress in a very important category. For the 2022 WNBA regular season, the data reveals that the viewership is trending in the right direction. An average of 379,000 viewers watched WNBA games on ABC, ESPN, and CBS. The numbers reflect a 16 percent increase. Last year the WNBA All-Star game averaged 470,000 viewers, but the 2022 WNBA All-Star game that aired in July on ABC averaged 734,000 viewers.

 

The good fortune in numbers has transitioned to post-season play as an average of 392,000 viewers tuned in for the first round of the WNBA playoffs. The total marks the most viewers for the first round of the WNBA playoffs within the past 15 years. It also represents a significant increase from last year’s first-round totals. The league is taking small steps in the right direction, and the viewership data is a positive sign of growth and prosperity.

 

Realistically speaking, the WNBA won’t catch up to the NBA anytime soon, but the league can continue to nurture and grow its brand. The best solution in regards to the WNBA increasing their revenue is to raise awareness. New fans bring in new revenue, and the best method of attracting new fans is by implementing a solid marketing strategy. They must also continue to collect sponsorship dollars and find a way to obtain more endorsement opportunities for their star players.

 

The ladies of the WNBA are a collective group of talented basketball players. They are physical, good at shooting the basketball, play good defense, and are fundamentally sound. The recent data from the WNBA shows a trend in the right direction. They still have a long way to go regarding closing the gap with the NBA, but you must keep in mind that the NBA is a 75-year business, and the WNBA just entered its 25th year in the game. The WNBA playoffs are currently airing on ABC and ESPN. Check your local listings for the games and the correct start times.

For more of Vince’s sports news article, click here.

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