WNBA working to land a nine-figure broadcast agreement

September 12, 2022
Back in the States, the WNBA is shooting its shot by taking a multi-pronged approach to land a nine-figure broadcast agreement.
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SOURCE: ETHAN MILLER/GETTY IMAGES
SOURCE: ETHAN MILLER/GETTY IMAGES

The GIST: Back in the States, the WNBA is shooting its shot by taking a multi-pronged approach to land a nine-figure broadcast agreement. Last Thursday, commissioner Engelbert said the league is eyeing a variety of media partners in a play to earn as many eyeballs as possible.

The details: Engelbert noted that the W isn’t looking for an exclusive broadcaster for the new deal. In addition to finding a TV home, the league is courting a streamer to accompany in-house streaming service WNBA League Pass.

  • And one of the league’s national broadcast partners wants to stay in the mix — ESPN hopes to extend its partnership with the W when it expires in 2025.

The context: The jury’s still out on how to reach sports fans in a fractured media landscape. Viewership dropped 41% on linear channels from July to August, but live sports are still posting solid numbers on TV — 61 of the top 100 most-watched primetime broadcasts in the U.S. last year were sporting events.

  • No surprise here: there’s a generation gap, too. Per a 2021 study, 77% of sports fans older than 56 and 57% aged 40 to 55 prefer to watch on TV while only 35% of fans under the age of 40 feel that way.

Zooming out: Intentionally seeking a streamer and a TV partner allows the W to be flexible as cable and streaming services duke it out. The goal for non-exclusivity also reflects the space’s current realities — seven different broadcasters will carry NFL games this season.

  • ESPN, meanwhile, continues to support women’s hoops amid rising price tags. The network currently pays $27 million a year to air the W, and is reportedly ready to ante up more than $34 million to keep its women’s March Madness rights.
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