An Explanation for the WNBA’s Lack of Viewership: the most baffling issue in all of sports
Source: Sky Sports
On April 1, 2018, Arike Ogunbowale sunk one of the most improbable buzzer beaters in March Madness history; a shot that most Americans did not see. The highly competitive, back-and-forth Final Four game received 171,000 viewers, despite being nationally televised. In comparison, the 2018 Men’s Final Four game between Villanova and Kansas held an average of 10.3 million viewers.
Such a drastic difference in viewership between men’s and women’s basketball is not unique to the collegiate level either. In fact, no matter the sport, whether it be the LPGA, Softball, or the WNBA, female athletes seem to always get the short end of the stick as they receive just 10% of media coverage. So why is this?
Let’s hyper analyze one of the most popular women’s sports, the WNBA, to get to the bottom of such a mind-boggling issue.
During its 2022 regular season, the WNBA will have 25 nationally televised games broadcasted on ABC, ESPN, and ESPN2, while the NBA aired 273 nationally televised games across ABC, TNT, NBA TV, and ESPN during its 2021-2022 regular season. *All playoff games for both the WNBA and NBA are nationally televised*
Is it possible that such disparity could be coincidental?
The 2022 WNBA season just recently began in May, and I doubt many people were aware of it. The lack of viewership does not correlate with the lack of entertainment, but rather poor execution on the management side of the sport. In developing a commitment to a franchise, fans must devote their time to watching said team throughout the regular season. In most sports, the playoffs are so engaging because fans have instilled their trust in one team to win it all that they watch every second of every playoff game. Due to its poor management tactics, the WNBA does not allow for such engagement to transpire.
Many sports fans do not know the WNBA season begins in May, but it is not their fault. You see, the WNBA regular season begins during the NBA and NHL playoffs, two of the most viewed sports across the United States, especially come playoff time. So, is it fair to ask the average American to switch the channel from Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, where his/her team’s season is on the line, to a regular season game between the Mercury and the Lynx that is essentially meaningless?
Moreover, the WNBA has proven its entertainment factor as NBA superstars like LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, and so many more have consistently shown their support by sitting courtside at countless WNBA games. In other words, it is clear the support for the sport exists, the problem lies at the feet of commissioner Cathy Engelbert and other high-ranking individuals.
Credit: Clutch Sports, Ashish Mathur
If the WNBA began at a different time of the year, female basketball players and the league as a whole would shine much brighter and receive a much more significant amount of fan appreciation and national attention that they do currently.
Finally, considering the WNBA has just 36 regular season games, if fans had time to watch the entirety of a regular season and develop a die-hard relationship with a specific organization, the league’s playoff viewership would see record numbers as well.