• Loading stock data...
Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Rising Star Power and Expansion: The WNBA’s Time to Shine Is Finally Here

  • A landmark season is set to begin Tuesday night.
  • As Caitlin Clark enters the league, things are changing for the better.
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The most-anticipated WNBA season in the league’s 27-year existence begins Tuesday night with four matchups across the country, highlighted by the regular-season debut of former Iowa sensation Caitlin Clark (above) as the Indiana Fever visit the Connecticut Sun at 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2. Mainstream interest in Clark is putting an even bigger spotlight on the WNBA as it continues to grow and capitalize on the overall momentum of women’s sports.

Since last fall’s WNBA Finals, which saw the Las Vegas Aces win their second-straight title, the league has taken significant steps and experienced some profound changes. 

  • Charter flights: This month, WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert announced the league would launch a full-time charter program as soon as possible, at an estimated cost of $25 million annually over the next two years.
  • Expansion: An ownership group in Toronto appears set to soon be awarded the WNBA’s 14th team, to enter the league in 2026. Next season, a Bay Area franchise will become the 13th club. Engelbert has said she would like to see the WNBA expand to as many as 16 franchises this decade. For context, that’s still about half the amount of teams as their male counterparts in other pro leagues, including the NFL (32), NHL (32), MLB (30), NBA (30), and MLS (29). The NWSL currently has 14 teams.
  • Viewership: Last month, ESPN’s coverage of the draft averaged 2.45 million viewers—the largest TV audience for any WNBA telecast since 2000. Meanwhile, demand for more broadcasts of preseason games has taken the league by surprise and led to some highly viewed illegal game streams
  • Star power: After being selected with the No. 1 pick, the rush for Clark’s Fever jersey set off a firestorm. At NBA All-Star weekend, New York Liberty guard Sabrina Ionescu put on a show while battling Golden State Warriors phenom Steph Curry in a three-point contest.

Next Up: New Media-Rights Deals

The WNBA’s current broadcast partners are Amazon, CBS Sports, Disney, and Scripps Sports. Amazon and CBS recently extended their deals, and Disney is in negotiations with its deal expiring in 2025. Engelbert has said the WNBA’s goal is to double its rights fee intake, which currently stands at roughly $60 million annually. Disney’s current deal is tied to its NBA contract, and a new deal with both leagues could have a similar structure.

Meanwhile, the Fever are becoming the WNBA’s media darlings, as more teams begin to truly capitalize on the power of their local broadcast rights.

Linkedin
Whatsapp
Copy Link
Link Copied
Link Copied

What to Read

Could the U.S. Women’s Open Get Its Own Media-Rights Deal? ‘It’s Possible’

Traditionally, the USGA has sold all of its media rights together in one package.

Indy 500 Delivers Record Payout and Sees TV Viewership Boost

A record purse, viewership increase provide a strong coda to the weather-delayed race.
Jan 11, 2024; Paris, FRANCE; NBA commissioner Adam Silver speaks before a NBA Game between the Brooklyn Nets and the Cleveland Cavaliers at AccorHotels Arena.

Adam Silver Is the Real Winner in the Battle for the NBA’s Rights Future

For the past decade, the commissioner has been playing chess, not checkers.
May 22, 2024; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards (5) controls the ball against Dallas Mavericks forward Derrick Jones Jr. (55) in the fourth quarter during game one of the western conference finals for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Target Center.

NBA Media-Rights Talks ‘in Fourth Quarter.’ Here’s What We Know

NBA heads into Memorial Day weekend without a new set of deals.
podcast thumbnail mobile
Front Office Sports Today

Inside the Shadowy Youth Basketball Talent Factories

0:00

Featured Today

NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis. Ncaahall 311477 Jpg

From Revenue-Sharing to Private Equity: Breaking Down the NCAA’s Historic Week

Commercialization of college sports has never been more evident than this week.
exclusive
May 20, 2024

‘This Is Semi-Pro’: Inside One Arena Football League Team’s Collapse

The collapse of the Georgia Force, as told by the players who lived it.
Michael Block signs autographs on the 18th hole during day three of practice for the PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on Wednesday, May 15, 2024.
May 19, 2024

‘I Prefer It This Way’: How Life Works for PGA Club Pros

Here’s how life works for the qualifiers at golf’s second major.
February 5, 2019; Washington, DC, USA; The grounds of the Capitol Building empty out following the conclusion of President Donald Trump's State of the Union speech on February 5, 2019.
May 18, 2024

‘A Breathtaking Lobbying Campaign’: The NCAA’s Sophisticated Effort to Save Amateurism

Inside the carefully coordinated, multimillion-dollar operation to end the athletes’ rights era.

Careers

Powered By

Careers in Sports

Looking for a new job? Check out these featured listings and search for openings all over the world.
EA Sports
Multiple - USA Careers
Nike
Multiple - USA Careers
CAA
Multiple - USA Careers

Not Every MLS Team Gets to Strike Gold With a Messi Visit

Lionel Messi won’t play in Saturday’s match against the Whitecaps.
May 23, 2024

The WNBA Is Coming to Toronto—and Vancouver and Montreal

The team is the league’s first outside of the United States.
May 23, 2024

The Knicks-Raptors Beef Has Now Extended Into the WNBA

James Dolan cast the lone vote against a new Toronto WNBA franchise.
Sponsored

Major League Rugby’s Vision for American Rugby

How Major League Rugby is leading the Rugby renaissance in the U.S.
May 22, 2024

Next Up on NFL’s Travel Plans: Australia … and Abu Dhabi?

The league confirmed it is exploring a game in Australia.
May 22, 2024

NFL Draft: Pittsburgh Will Host in ’26, Denver Makes Its Case for ’27

The Steelers predict the upcoming draft will be the ‘largest visitor event in the history of Pittsburgh.’
May 22, 2024

Deep Playoff Run Ups Ante in T-Wolves’ Ownership Saga, Experts Say

Even skeptics acknowledge a title run could significantly increase the team’s valuation.
May 21, 2024

The NHL Season Could Wrap Up With the Biggest Market vs. the Best Player 

The league office will undoubtedly be hoping for a juicy matchup to attract the biggest audience possible.