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Is the wine glass half full or half empty with WNBA finances?

Aug 23, 2010, 12:35 PM EDT

Television ratings are up. But the numbers are still small. Attendance is down. But sponsorship dollars are up.


Looking at the WNBA finances, it’s how you look at the glass of Chardonnay – half full or half empty.


The Sports Business Journal took a look at the league heading into the start of the playoffs this week and found a mixed bag.


Average attendance for the 12-team league through last Wednesday was down 3.7 percent to an average of 7,679 fans per game, compared with last year’s average of 7,971 through the same date. The 2009 average includes teams in Detroit and Sacramento, markets that are no longer in the league…Comparing only the 11 teams that played in both 2009 and 2010, average attendance was up 0.5 percent heading into the season’s final games this past weekend, WNBA officials said…


The WNBA this year signed new league partnerships with Jamba Juice, Coca-Cola and Pirate’s Booty snack food and doubled its number of team marquee deals, which include jersey sponsorships, to four…”Over the past two seasons, our teams have been diligent in improving the business model,” [WNBA President Donna] Orender said.


On TV, the WNBA as of last week was averaging a 0.2 cable rating and 263,000 viewers over 17 games on ESPN2, compared with a 0.2 rating and 234,000 viewers for nine regular-season games on ESPN2 last year.


So the ratings are up to about half of what an NHL game draws (and they get ripped for their ratings). For comparison, ESPN drew a 1.1 rating last season on its regular season NBA games, or about 1.65 million viewers. Playoff ratings were through the roof, the best the NBA had seen since the Jordan era.


The WNBA finances seem to be improving, along with the economy. It’s not going anywhere, which is good for women’s sports and in that way good for our culture. But it also remains a niche sport played when most Americans are thinking about baseball, golf and NASCAR as their viewing options.


Of course, the WNBA is not on the edge of a lockout, so they have that going for them. Which is nice.

  1. NYWNBAfan - Aug 23, 2010 at 2:15 PM

    (and they get ripped for their ratings).
    Well, they HAVE been around for a couple of more years than the W. As has the NBA.
    Baby steps, Kurt. Baby steps. The league is making more money than the Nets lost in, what, two hours? :-) In these economic times, I’ll take that, thank you very much. Especially in the face of all those who feel so threatened by the W that they feel the need to bash it left right and center.
    Sometimes I think the pleasure I get from watching a Cappie or Diana or Tina Charles in increased by the fact that it makes Bill Simmons apoplectic.

  2. bballboy - Aug 23, 2010 at 3:09 PM

    The WNBA needs to reachout to its fan base, which is woman and young girls. They need to do it not just at a national level but also at an international level. WNBA needs to partner up with local highschools and community to better promote there agenda and spread excitement. One thing WNBA can’t do is compete with the NBA. They can’t start handing out lebron like contract, and copy cat the glitz and glammer of the NBA. They will be fine by sticking to their fan base….

  3. Oddjoe - Aug 23, 2010 at 4:10 PM

    Trouble is they try and get me as an NBA fan to watch. I like the NBA because I wish I was a 6′ 8″ wing who can slam from the free throw line. I was a 6′ 1″ wing who could box out and hit 80% on my set shots- I won’t pay to watch that. They will never thrive until they can get women to watch.

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