Posts Tagged ‘WNBA’

What can the NWSL learn from previous leagues?

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

The American Basketball League and the United States Football league had a few similarities as to why their leagues folded after 3 seasons. Firstly, both leagues had to compete against other major pro leagues in the same sport. According to the Remember the USFL website, the USFL (United States Football League) had to compete with the National Football League (NFL).  The two leagues competed for TV time, coaches, players, and fans. They were both promoting football, but the two teams were competing for the money. The USFL filed two lawsuits against the NFL in order to claim money they felt had belonged to them which had won the lawsuits.

The American Basketball League (ABL) had to compete against the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the WNBA.  Just like the USFL and the NFL, these basketball leagues had to fight over TV time, coaches, players, and fans.  The American basketball league did however attracted better talent than the WNBA, thanks to better salaries and benefits.  But the league was unable to compete for coveted sponsorships and television contracts.

The USFL however had more of a problem when it came to their post season play. There was not much of an east and west or a north and south division, so every time it came to the championship it would be two teams from the same coast. Fans did not like this so much, so they did not want to see the same teams in the championship and would not attend these games. Another problem the USFL experienced was salary cap issues. The New Jersey generals, just like the rest of the league, wanted to make a name for themselves and ignored their salary cap in order to sign big time players. Even though they get the big time players, they had big gaps in the rest of their team and did not have such a good season which had cost them their fan base.

The ABL and USFL may have not lasted past 3 seasons, but that is no reason to say that other pro sport leagues can’t make it. The national women’s soccer league could learn a few things from the American basketball league and the United States football league. First of all, they should learn from the ABL, to compete with other same sport professional seasons. The ABL competed did not compete with one, but with two same sport leagues which ultimately led to fight for over television rights and fans.  The National Women’s Soccer League does not want an owner to be the commissioner because they don’t want there to be any issues revolving around conflict of interests.

Also, the soccer league should learn from the USFL and should split their league into two divisions, so come post season play; there will be two teams from different divisions playing against each other in the championship. Different divisions call for more fans to spectate. The women’s soccer league should also limit their franchise changes. The USFL had too many franchise changes and the fans did not like it, which had brought down the teams’ fan attendance.  The soccer league should also have their season during an off season for other pro leagues, so that they do not have to compete as much for TV time and fan attendance like the ABL had to.

The WNBA’s Media Rights Deal with ESPN

Monday, April 28th, 2014

The WNBA has recently (2013) signed a new deal with ESPN and ABC for coverage of their games through the year 2022. This is through the WNBA’s 25th anniversary. The WNBA will make $12 million each year with $1 million being given to each team.  There was a drop off in viewer of WNBA games in 2012 and it was thought that the WNBA would be on the decline.  The WNBA had a previous contract with ESPN through the 2015-2016 which was signed in 2007.  I couldn’t find much about the WNBA’s media deals previous to 2007. I believe that this is in part happening so that the WNBA can stay afloat this deal is really helping them out economically. This new contract takes the place of the old one.  This new contract has also added two games that will be covered: a Memorial Day double-header, which is meant to be like the Christmas double-header for the NBA.  Last season, number of viewers went up significantly.  The WNBA’s Memorial Day games were viewed the most because it was a coming out party of sorts for Elena Delle Donne, Skylar Diggins, and Brittney Griner, three prominent NCAA stars that were rookies last season.  It is believed by ESPN that the WNBA is a good investment because they attract loyal fans every year, it is part of their expansion in covering women’s sports, and the WNBA attracts more viewers than the MLS does.  It is also interesting to note that this deal caused the WNBA to revamp itself, with a new logo and a new deal with Adidas (new uniform style) riding the coattails of this deal with ESPN.  Another interesting fact is that 66% of the viewers of the WNBA are male, and half of the viewers are African American.  I think that in order for the WNBA to gain more viewers, they need to appeal to women more.  I don’t know how they would go about that but I think that if they appeal to their own gender more it will increase viewership numbers.  Maybe that will happen with time as well, since more and more girls are playing basketball.   Hopefully one day the WNBA will be more popular than it is and that it won’t be just a memory of a league that once was.

History of the WNBA television rights

Monday, April 28th, 2014

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.  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.

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.  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.

National Women’s Soccer League: Learning from the Past

Monday, April 21st, 2014


The ABL (American Basketball League) most recently, refers to the women’s basketball league founded in 1996 that lasted only three seasons. The league was made up of 10 teams and sprouted during a bright spot in women’s basketball after their 1996 gold medal.  According to the NY Times, the league even paid great salaries for their players, “$50,000 to $150,000 and offered players year-round health benefits and a retirement plan.”  The growth of the WNBA, a brand of basketball with backing from the NBA, and the lack of a major sponsorship eventually led to the demise of the ABL.


The USFL (United States Football League) like the ABL, only lasted three seasons. Naturally the USFL faced issues coexisting with the powerhouse NFL, winning an initial lawsuit against the league before their birth in 1982. The USFL even had contracts with ESPN and ABC to broadcast their games during the NFL offseason. Many teams during the 1983 season exceeded their salary caps by signing big names including Hershel Walker, and Steve Young. The league even made a run for Dan Marino at one point. The league failed to meet these larger financial responsibilities by increasing their marketing revenue.  In their 3rd season and with an attempt to take down Goliath, the USFL announced their season would be the same as the regular NFL season. This turned out to be a detrimental decision and eventually led to the downfall of the USFL.


What can we learn from studying these two sports organizations? First we can learn that it can be difficult to attack a larger league head on. The USFL competed with the NFL and did a fairly good job when their season occurred during the NFL’s offseason. When they tried to take the reins of the market and play their season during NFL season they crumbled. The NFL had already had control of the professional marketplace, a market they had been familiar with since 1920. Once the USFL made the decision to directly compete or dethrone the NFL they were doomed. The ABL didn’t directly take on a powerhouse league, one happened to pop up around the same time as theirs. The ABL was squashed under the foot of the WNBA largely because of their support from the ever popular NBA. Intelligently, the NBA used much of its knowledge about running a successful league and shared it with their new women’s league. The WNBA and the ABL both saw a huge opening in the marketplace for professional women’s basketball in the USA. It was only a matter of time until one would fail due to oversaturation.



The NWSL (National Women’s Soccer League) is another league founded in 2012. The situation with the NWSL seems to be a little different than the history of the other two leagues we have examined so far. The beginning of this league is somewhat more of a merger vs. a competition for a growing or currently existing marketplace as we saw with the ABL or USFL. After the downfall of WPS (Women’s Professional Soccer), officials from that league and other high status women’s soccer leagues collectively gathered to discuss past and present issues in hopes of turning the NWSL into a super league.




Monday, April 21st, 2014


The United States Football League (USFL) opened in 82’ and closed in 85’ after only 3 short seasons. Founded by David Dixon, from New Orleans, Louisiana, the USFL announced its formation on May 11, 1982, at the 21 Club in New York City. During 1982-1985, the USFL fought a bitter war with the established National Football League (the NFL) for players, fans, and media attention. In July of 1986, with a month before the league was to begin its first fall campaign, the USFL won its suit against the NFL, but was awarded $3.76. It’s time couldn’t have been better. The USFL was formed in 1982, right when the NFL was headed towards a strike. The first kickoff of the USFL in 1983 came just weeks after the Redskins were crowned Super Bowl champions after a strike-shortened nine-game season and playoff tournament. The USFL started to get into bidding wars for players. Some teams went bankrupt, in Los Angeles, the team was well known for the $40 million contract given to Steve Young. The USFL wanted to extend their success after their first successful season and tried to play games in professional stadiums but were unable to do so because of overlapping schedules with the NFL. Which along with the high salaries were reasons why it failed to exist after three seasons.

ABL or American basketball league was an independent professional basketball league for women in the United States. It only lasted from 96’ to 98’ for only 2 full seasons. On December 22nd, 1998, with almost no warning the ABL declared bankruptcy and suspended all operations. It had a higher quality of play than the WNBA did because it signed majority of its players from the 96’ national team, a possible reason it failed was due to the higher salaries offered compared to that of the WNBA. Financially they could not compete with the WNBA and had to shut down all operations.

What can the new National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) learn from those leagues in order to stay afloat?

Since there is not a larger women’s soccer league they’re not competing like the USFL had to compete against the NFL, or the ABL trying to compete against the WNBA. If they don’t make the same mistake of spending too much money on salaries like the USFL or the ABL did, and correctly market their league, they should be able to sustain a successful sporting organization.
For a short term marketing strategy:
I would market the individual players. All ten of the highest paid women athletes are from individual sports. However, I think marketing a single player like “Hope Solo” brought a lot of attention to women’ soccer, in my opinion. Probably not the right message, since I think she is a bit of a mess, but she brought awareness to women’s sport.

Long term success:
I would continue working with NIKE and other large corporations for potential sponsors to increase awareness. Possible Women only companies like Lululemon, Athleta, might see more value and give the sport more attention than possibly NIKE, a mega-corporation. Nike is too huge of a corporation to “worry” or spend extra time on such a small market. Women specific entities are more likely to spend more or extra time and effort specific to women’s sporting events.