WNBA viewership increases, but does its coverage?

Women’s sports have constantly struggled to gain coverage on national television. This is an issue that extends across all women’s sports. The men’s teams are simply seen as “more valuable” on a given platform such as ESPN. Therefore, they are given the appropriate amount of airtime for people to become fans and invest in the team they are watching. A study conducted by USC and Purdue University, found that men’s sports recieved 95% of total television coverage in 2019. The question is, how can someone become a fan or back women’s sports when they only receive 5% of television coverage? 

This year the Women’s National Basketball Association celebrated its 25th anniversary with double-digit growth making it the highest viewed season in the association’s history. The regular season viewership increased by 49% with an average of 309,000 viewers across ESPN networks and was the most viewed since 2009. The 2021 WNBA playoffs were the highest viewed since 2014. The finals were also the highest viewed since 2017. This past summer, the final game between the Seattle Storm and Chicago Sky had the highest viewership increase in the association’s history for a regular-season game reaching 755,000 views. People want to watch these women athletes. 

Imagine if associations, like the WNBA, had the same caliber of promotion the NBA has. The viewership ratings would most likely drastically increase. Those who are already fans and follow women’s sports know how difficult it can be to find where the games are being televised if they are at all. The women’s teams are also slotted at some of the most inconvenient times for the average person to watch. The men’s teams take priority with receiving the time slots where the viewership will be at its highest. If the WNBA is to continue to grow and succeed, the association needs to be given the appropriate amount of space within the sports industry to be viewed. Otherwise, it is near impossible to gain and build a fan base.

“This past year there’s been more talk about recognizing and celebrating our dif erences on the path to true equality as people, as opposed to trying ignore them. Let’s extend that to sports women play. It’s not a version of men’s sports. It’s women’s sports. They’re their own thing. Let’s appreciate them that way. It’s not hard. And because I’m a woman, women’s sports was just sports to me.”

Erin Kane, WNBA representative

As the 2022 WNBA season starts back up in May, let’s hope these athletes can continue to receive more airtime and promotion on sporting networks such as ESPN, to gain a consistent and strong following.

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