WNBA on ESPN
|WNBA on ESPN|
|Country of origin||United States|
|Running time||120 minutes+ (ESPN)
150 minutes+ (ABC)
|Original channel||ESPN (1997 – present)
ESPN2 (2001 – present)
ABC (2003 – present)
|Picture format||480i (SDTV)
|Original run||1997 – present|
The WNBA on ESPN refers to the presentation of Women's National Basketball Association games on the ESPN family of networks. Under the title of WNBA Tuesday, games are broadcast throughout the WNBA season on Tuesday nights on ESPN2.
In June 2003, the WNBA signed a new six-year agreement with ABC Sports and ESPN to televise regular season games and playoff games from 2003 through 2008. It was also announced that ESPN2 would televise a half-hour pregame show before each broadcast. In June 2007, the WNBA signed another contract extension with ESPN. The new television deal runs from 2009 to 2016. A minimum of 18 games will be broadcast on ABC, ESPN, and ESPN2 each season. Additionally, a minimum of 11 postseason games will be broadcast on any of the three stations.
Along with this deal, came the first ever rights fees to be paid to a women's professional sports league. Over the eight years of the contract, "millions and millions of dollars" will be "dispersed to the league's teams."
In early 2013, WNBA President Laurel Richie and NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver, wanting to breath new life and long-term security into a league which had just experienced record low attendance and TV ratings, approached ESPN President John Skipper with regard to an extension to the existing contract which would expire in 2016. 2016 was also the same year ESPN's NBA contract would expire, a contract expected to have big competition between ESPN and new 24 hour sports channels from NBC and Fox. At a news conference on March 28, 2013, ESPN and the WNBA announced they have extended their agreement through 2022. Under the agreement there will be up to 30 games a year televised on ABC, ESPN or ESPN2 each season, including the Finals. Although the financial terms of the deal were not stated by ESPN or the WNBA, Sports Business Daily reported that sources said the deal was worth $12 million a year.
Announcers change from year to year, but recent play-by-play personalities have included: Terry Gannon, Mark Jones, Dave Pasch and Pam Ward. Generally, game broadcasts include a pair of announcers—alongside those providing play-by-play are the color analysts which have included Doris Burke, Nancy Lieberman, Carolyn Peck, Rebecca Lobo.
One unique aspect of WNBA coverage on the ESPN family of networks is that many of the participants wear live microphones. Starting with the 2003 WNBA All Star Game (which aired on ABC), most games televised have involved coaches, players and referees being wired for sound. On some occasions, the sound of players and coaches talking will overlap with commentary; also, on several occasions, ESPN has had to mute the sound because of expletives.
|“||I just hear from our family and friends back home that, 'Boy, ESPN is killing you guys,' ... 'And (Nancy) Lieberman and Doris Burke are just trashing you left and right.' Not only me, but also some of our players on our ballclub. ... We're telling ESPN today to basically stick it.||”|
Laimbeer banned ESPN from the Shock locker room for Game 4 of the series, and also refused to wear a live microphone for that game (as had been the custom throughout the regular season and the playoffs).
Initially, Saturday and Sunday afternoon games were broadcast on ABC. Tuesday night games were broadcast on ESPN2. But over time that changed. For 2013, only one game was shown on ABC on Saturday, June 8, and thirteen games were shown on ESPN2 on five different days of the week (no WNBA games were shown on Sunday or Friday on ESPN2). On opening day for the 2008 season (May 17), ABC broadcast the Los Angeles Sparks and Phoenix Mercury matchup. The game received a little over 1 million viewers. Average viewership for games broadcast on national television (ABC and ESPN2) was 413,000 (up from 346,000 in 2007).
In 2008, the WNBA finished up in key demographics on ESPN2—Women 18–34 (+71%) and Men 18–34 (+28%) – and on ABC—All Women (+10%) and Women 18–34 (+20%).
The 2009 regular season on ESPN2 (13 telecasts) concluded with an average of 269,000 viewers, up 8% vs. 2008 season (248,000 viewers). In addition, regular-season games on ESPN2 saw increases in key demographics, including men 18–34 (+9%), men 18–49 (+14%) and men 23–54 (+23%).
The 2011 season on ESPN2 averaged 270,000 viewers per game, the league's highest since 2005 and up 5% from an average of 258,000 in 2010. Viewership for the 2011 WNBA All-Star Game on ABC was up 46% from the previous game.
Game 2 of the 2012 WNBA Finals between the Indiana Fever and Minnesota Lynx was broadcast on ESPN (games 1,3 and 4 were on ESPN2) and received 778,000 viewers and a .6 household rating. This was the highest rated WNBA broadcast on ESPN since a 1999 Western Conference Finals game between the Houston Comets and Los Angeles Sparks received 1,052,000 viewers and a 1.1 household rating.
For 2013 the league averaged 231,000 viewers for 13 games on ESPN2, a 28% gain over the 180,000 average audience for nine telecasts in 2012. The 2013 WNBA Finals games averaged 344,000 viewers.
The 180,000 viewers for 2012 was the lowest regular season WNBA ESPN2 ratings, with 2005 having the highest regular season ratings at 282,000. In 2013 ESPN said that their WNBA audience was majority male, as it had been for years. 66% of the viewers were male and almost half were African-Americans.
- "WNBA Announces Six-Year Deal with ABC and ESPN". wnba.com. WNBA. June 12, 2002. Retrieved February 8, 2014.
- https://www.sportsbusinessdaily.com/article/113473 New television deal
- Lefton, Terry; Ourand, John (April 1, 2013). "What drove the new WNBA deal". sportsbusinessdaily.com. Retrieved February 8, 2014.
- "ESPN, WNBA extend agreement". ESPN. March 28, 2013. Retrieved May 27, 2013.
- "ESPN and WNBA work out broadcast deal". USAToday. March 28, 2013. Retrieved May 27, 2013.
- "ESPN Signs Six-Year Extension With WNBA That Is Worth $12M Per Year". Sports Business Daily. March 28, 2013. Retrieved May 27, 2013.
- "Thibault, Whisenant to wear mics during game". espn.com. ESPN. September 11, 2005. Retrieved February 8 , 2014.
- Silva, Chris (September 6, 2006). "Laimbeer not too happy with ESPN". freep.com. Detroit Free Press. Retrieved February 8, 2014.
- "WNBA Television Listings - 2013". ESPN. May 2013. Retrieved Sep 19, 2013.
- "WNBA Closes Regular Season Up in Attendance, TV Ratings and Web Traffic". wnba.com. WNBA. September 16, 2008. Retrieved February 8, 2014.
- Zeigler, Cyd (October 2, 2008). "WNBA ratings up but still not good". outsports.com. Retrieved February 8, 2014.
- "More Ratings: WNBA on ESPN, Texas Rangers, Nationwide Series". Sports Media Watch. Aug 31, 2011. Retrieved Sep 19, 2013.
- "2012 WNBA Finals Schedule". WNBA. October 2012. Retrieved Sep 19, 2013.
- "Game 2 of the WNBA Finals most viewed WNBA postseason game on ESPN since 1999". Hoopfeed.com. October 18, 2012. Retrieved September 18, 2012.
- Reynolds, Mike (Sep 18, 2013). "WNBA Nets Double-Digit Audience Gains on ESPN2, NBATV". Multichannel News. Retrieved Sep 19, 2013.
- Ourand, John; Karp, Austin (November 11, 2013). "With rebound, WNBA solidifies spot at ESPN". sportsbusinessdaily.com. Sports Business Journal. Retrieved November 12, 2013.
|WNBA network broadcast partner (ABC, ESPN)