The WNBA announces an updated Commissioner's Cup format
The GIST: After seeing its best viewership in 21 years — and the NBA’s instant audience boost for its inaugural In-Season Tournament — the WNBA is ready to revamp its own in-season tourney. On Monday, the league announced an expanded fourth iteration of the Commissioner’s Cup that includes five matchups for each team. Splash.
The format: The 2024 Commissioner’s Cup will feature 30 total games during two weeks in June. Every WNBA team will play against one in-conference rival, and the best squads from each conference will play for $500K in the Cup final on June 25th.
- This is a departure from the previous format in which 10 contests of each team’s 40-game season counted toward the tournament. The franchises with the highest win percentage in each conference then battled it out for the title.
- The condensed format should emulate the hype of the NBA’s In-Season Tournament, which divided the league’s 30 teams into six groups that played two stages over a month-long period. Notably, NBA players were competing for $500K each, compared to the $500K prize shared by the entire winning Commissioner’s Cup team.
The rationale: The NBA borrowed the WNBA’s in-season tournament concept to generate buzz during a slow part of its season, creating high stakes and a dramatic storyline that captivated audiences. The tournament’s intensive marketing worked: The championship game averaged 4.5M viewers, making it the most-watched non-Christmas contest in nearly six years. Sleigh.
The takeaway: Although it was a W original, the NBA refined the concept of an in-season tournament, turning it into a winning marketing play that the WNBA can learn from. It’s another example of the leagues’ circular relationship, and if the remodeled Commissioner’s Cup is anything like the NBA’s, there should be multiple sponsors lining up to get in on the growing fandom and viewership.