The WNBA was in the news more than normal this season. The sad reason for that was the unjust detainment, and subsequent conviction of WNBA superstar Brittney Griner. A lot of the conversation regarding her case focused on the question, “why was she in Russia?” There were a lot of sports writers, and her own wife, that mentioned she was ‘forced’ to play in Russia because she doesn’t make enough playing for the WNBA.
Anyone who follows sports understands that league revenue relies solely on TV contracts. And, a league’s contract will be based on the amount of viewers. The WNBA has done itself a great disservice with the schedule surrounding their Finals.
The first game started at noon PST last Sunday. This was the first Sunday of the NFL. The tip-off was wedged right in between the NFL’s morning and afternoon slate of games. They also started the game when the Patriots had already been playing (Connecticut Sun’s TV market), and ended the game when the Las Vegas Raiders (Vegas Aces’ TV market) had been playing. The proof that the NFL negatively impacted this decision is evident. The total viewers for Game 1 on ABC was the lowest total in two months. Regular season WNBA games had higher ratings than this. Game two didn’t go up against anything major in the world of sports. However, game three went up against Thursday Night Football. Lastly, this weekend’s pivotal game four, again tips off during an NFL Sunday. The Patriots game will be finishing up, but the Raiders game will just be starting.
One could argue the average fan for the NFL and the WNBA do not intersect. But, even if that’s the case, that’s not an excuse for the WNBA. The league should be trying to grow the sport, and one of the best ways to do that is through more viewers. There’s no chance the league is going to gain new fans when their marquee event is going up against the country’s most watched sport three out of four times. Every other league knows this. That’s why you don’t see Stanley Cup games the same night as the NBA Finals. It’s why the World Series doesn’t go up against Monday Night Football. It’s why no one plays a game during the Super Bowl. The league did their players a great disservice with their scheduling. And, because of this foolish decision, the league’s revenue will remain low because TV ratings will. All in all, a self-inflicted wound.