The WNBA enters its 2013 playoff campaign with double-digit gains in viewership on its national TV outlets.
The distaff pro hoops league -- tipping off its postseason on Sept. 19 with a twinbill featuring the Atlanta Dream-Washington Mystics and Los Angeles Sparks-Phoenix Mercury on ESPN2 at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m., respectively -- averaged 231,000 viewers for 13 games on the network, a 28% gain over the 180,000 average audience for nine telecasts in 2012.
ESPN2 dunked its largest WNBA regular-season audience since 2004 on Memorial Day, the 2013 season’s starting point, with the Chicago-Phoenix contest garnering 455,000 watchers. The game showcased heralded newcomers, the Sky’s Elena Delle Donne and the Mercury’s Britney Griner, who along with Tulsa’s Skylar Diggins were the subjects of the “3 to See” marketing campaign as their collegiate careers wound down at Delaware, Baylor and Notre Dame, respectively.
NBA TV had its most-viewed WNBA season averaging 50,000 viewers for 45 telecasts, 19% more than the average of 42,000 for the same number of games last year. The 2013 regular season was highlighted by NBA TV's most-watched WNBA telecast: The Seattle Storm-San Antonio Silver Stars game on June 21 scored with 113,000 fans.
The NBA’s in-house network starts its WNBA playoff presentation with the Sky squaring off against Tamika Catchings and the defending WNBA champion Indiana Fever at 7 p.m. and the Minnesota Lynx meeting Seattle at 9 p.m. The Storm, the fourth-place finisher in the Western Conference, is led by Tina Thompson, the last original player left from when the circuit bowed in 1996, who is retiring after 16 seasons.
All 23 possible postseason games will be televised on ESPN, ESPN2 and NBA TV.
The WNBA’s improved television performance -- outdelivering MLS’s average audience on ESPN2 (192,000) and NBCSN (106,000) -- follows the rights deal for the 2017-22 seasons that is separate from ESPN’s extant contract with the NBA that also encompasses the distaff hoops league through 2016.
There were also advances on the WNBA Digital side of the court. WNBA.com experienced a 27% rise in unique visits, a 20% jump in total visits and 11% amelioration in page views.
WNBA games streamed online at WNBA.com via LiveAccess registered a 24% amelioration among unique users.
The WNBA Channel on YouTube set a new record with 635,000 videos viewed during opening week and experienced a three-fold increase in video views this season, according to league officials.