Squeezed amidst the football season, the conclusion of MLB races and now postseason, and the faceoff the NHL campaign, a highly competitive WNBA Finals between the Phoenix Mercury and Indiana Fever has been pressed to gain attention amidst a very crowded sports landscape.
Despite the tough scheduling, the best-of-five Finals, which the Fever can wrap up at Conseco tonight at 7:30 p.m, is posting up improved Nielsens, albeit it off low bases.
Through the first three games, ESPN2 has averaged 476,000 viewers, a 51% jump from last year’s Finals matchup between the Detroit Shock and San Antonio Silver Stars. According to Nielsen data, households have improved 50% to 386,000, with average ratings ahead 33% to a 0.4.
Those totals were boosted by the opener on Tuesday Sept. 29, a 120-116 OT thriller taken by the Mercury, which netted 550,000 viewers, a 59% surge over the start of the 2008 championship series. It was the only contest in which the WNBA Finals didn’t face major national sports competition.
The scheduling sledding has been a lot tougher since. Game 2, during which the Fever seized home court advantage with a 93-84 win as Tamika Catchings (daughter of NBAer Harvey) came within one board of a triple double, matched up against college football on ESPN and the teeth of broadcast’s big weeknight.
Then Sunday’s Game 3, an 86-85 triumph for Indy fueled by a long wing jumper and then a block by Ebony Hoffman, matched up against the NFL’s second Sunday afternoon window.
Tonight, it’s MLB’s Division Series on TBS, with the New York Yankees hosting the Minnesota Twins and then perhaps for the last half hour, the LA Dodgers entertaining the St. Louis Cardinals.
If necessary, the Mercury would entertain the Fever on Friday at 9 p.m., when the title tilt would encounter more DS action.
I know it may be tough for those who don’t think women can run, but sneak a peek at the ladies between innings of the Yanks-Twins. Catchings and Hoffman’s veteran teammate Katie Douglas and newcomer Brionn January can really play. Phoenix has league MVP and UConn legend Diane Taurasi, Australian Olympian Penny Taylor and ex-Rutgers guard, Cappie Pondexter, she of the flying hairdo and to-the-lane game.
This Finals has been offensive-minded and up tempo all the way (perhaps not to the degree that Phoenix would like to turn up the heat), underscoring the WNBA’s tagline, “Expect Great.”
You just can’t expect much bigger Nielsens at this time of year.