The WNBA expects to double its media rights value in next deal

April 10, 2024
The WNBA already believes Caitlin Clark will have a Tiger Woods–like effect on women’s pro basketball, so they’re betting big on her and the rest of 2024’s stacked draft class. On Monday, WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert confirmed to CNBC that the league is looking to double its fees in its next media rights deal.
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The WNBA expects to double its media rights value in next deal
Source: Steph Chambers/Getty Images

The GIST: The WNBA already believes Caitlin Clark will have a Tiger Woods–like effect on women’s pro basketball, so they’re betting big on her and the rest of 2024’s stacked draft class. On Monday, WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert confirmed to CNBC that the league is looking to double its fees in its next media rights deal. That’s money, honey.

The deal: The WNBA reportedly earns about $60M annually from its current media rights deals, primarily with Disney, Amazon Prime Video, and Ion. The league is in joint negotiations with the NBA and Disney, and although ESPN’s Jimmy Pitaro expects the leagues to finalize a deal together, the W could break away for a separate, more lucrative deal.

  • In March, former ESPN executive John Kosner told Front Office Sports that the WNBA is pushing for a media rights deal worth between $80M and $100M annually, but that was before Clark tore through March Madness and reset the bar for women’s basketball viewership.

The Clark Effect: Everyone expected Clark to bring more eyeballs to the W, but the final numbers on her college season are unprecedented. She generated approximately $82.5M for Iowa’s economy, while the Hawkeyes broke viewership records at every level of the tourney, culminating in a title game that drew 18.9M viewers and beat out the men’s championship viewership (14.8M) for the first time ever.

  • Plus, she’s already having an effect on her likely WNBA landing spot — Indiana Fever home opener resale tickets have risen past $500 and other franchises see around a $100 price jump for games against the Fever compared to against other teams.

Zooming out: With the NBA looking to complete its deal by this summer, the WNBA has a few months to explore options. The W is unique among women’s leagues in its relationship with the NBA, but women’s sports have traditionally been held back by deals worked out with men’s sports in mind, such as the FIFA World Cup and the former NCAA bundle for women’s March Madness.

  • The W may not see the same jump the NWSL got for its $240M deal, but Clark’s popularity should make for great leverage. As Engelbert put it, “we’re setting this league up not just for the next three to five years with this next media rights deal, but for the next 30.” Ready for it.

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