History of the WNBA television rights

The WNBA currently has TV rights with ESPN. I believe that it is escalating because just recently I was able to watch the WNBA Draft just a couple a weeks ago. According  to ESPN W, last year was the first time ESPN had shown the draft in prime time television. http://espn.go.com/wnba/story/_/id/9108870/wnba-espn-wnba-extend-agreement-2022  This is definitely a sign of progress. The league recently signed a new agreement that allows up to 30 live games to be televised each season on ABC, ESPN, ESPN2 and WatchESPN, including coverage of the playoffs, draft and All-Star Game. 30 games is not much, but it is better than nothing. Right now, the WNBA is the only female professional league that is being televised and they should not take that for granted. Some exposure is better than nothing. According to sports business daily, the deal is worth $12M per year, which amounts to about $1M per WNBA team, and runs through the ’22 season. http://www.sportsbusinessdaily.com/Daily/Issues/2013/03/28/Media/WNBA.aspx

ESPN has always had a contract with the WNBA since 1997, but it was through the NBA. The viewing numbers are not as high as the NBA, but they are better compared to other professional sports that ESPN covers. According to sports business daily, the WNBA Finals averaged more viewers on ESPN2 than IndyCar did on NBCSN and the U.S. Open Series tennis events did on ESPN2.  http://www.sportsbusinessdaily.com/Journal/Issues/2013/11/11/Media/By-The-Numbers.aspx  This is great for the WNBA because these numbers are steering away from the stereotypical answer of “nobody watches or they don’t draw crowds”. With the opportunity given to the WNBA from ESPN, the numbers are increasing and are showing that this sport can draw viewers! ESPN must believe or at least have faith in the league because of the recent agreements to a new contract that is extending their deal.

I think that the contract has extended because of the hype around certain female basketball stars. The stars such as Britney Griner and Skylar Diggins, because they had such a fantastic college career and people would follow them into their professional career. The star group does not end there. This year, the WNBA will be getting more talented stars that people will want to follow. For example, Shoni Schimmel, she will bring a spark to the professional game just like she did while at Louisville. A lot of people will follow her not only because of the upset she had over Britney Griner last year, but because she will draw the native american crowd. The Atlanta Dream is already planning on hosting a Native American night May 30th in order to draw the bigger crowds, knowing that the native american community will follow Shoni Schimmel.  Also according to her twitter page, her first week of having her professional jersey up for sale online, the jersey sold out in a matter of a couple of days. So with fans excited about Shoni going to the WNBA, I see this year’s viewing numbers increasing!

I only see good things happening for the WNBA. I see the talent getting better and better. It is only a matter of time before the games start getting shown more often because soon more people will demand to see the games.

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