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Saturday, May 18, 2024

WNBA Commish Wants New Media-Rights Deal to Double Old One

  • The league currently makes $60 million from its media-rights package.
  • ‘FOS’ has previously reported that the WNBA could go it alone in the rights market.
Syndication: The Des Moines Register

Cathy Engelbert is betting big on the WNBA’s next media-rights deal. 

Speaking on CNBC a day after Iowa fell to undefeated South Carolina in the NCAA championship game, the WNBA commissioner is already talking up the impact Caitlin Clark will bring to her league a week before she officially joins it. 

“We hope to at least double our rights fees,” Engelbert said. “Women’s sports rights fees have been undervalued for too long, so we have this enormous opportunity at a time where the media landscape is changing so much. We’re really excited to get out in the marketplace.”

The WNBA currently earns about $60 million annually from its TV and streaming deals with Disney, Amazon Prime Video, and several other companies. It’s currently in a joint negotiation with the NBA and Walt Disney Co., which owns ABC and ESPN, but it could break off and seek its own deal, Front Office Sports’ Michael McCarthy reported last month

At that time, former ESPN executive John Kosner predicted to FOS that the league is trying to push its annual media-rights payout between $80 million and $100 million. But that was before Clark’s record-breaking rampage through March Madness, where she produced some of the most-watched ESPN telecasts ever.

On CNBC, Engelbert said she is aware of player complaints over compensation and traveling on commercial flights instead of charter and hopes the new media-rights deal helps address them. 

“I do think 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,” she said.

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