CBS Sports and WNBA have closed a deal to broadcast 40 games this coming WNBA season, beginning on May 25 with the Chicago Sky at the Minnesota Lynx. The news is quite exciting for WNBA fans across the country who have previously had to subscribe to watch their favorite players during the summer season. CBS’s investment into the League is a major step in the struggle for equal coverage of women’s professional sports. The WNBA’s average viewership across ESPN2 and NBA TV was up 31% over 2018, and this deal will continue to help with the League’s exposure.
The default argument that nobody cares or watches the WNBA is unfounded; it simply hasn’t been made available to viewers like it should be. As a result, revenue is lower and players are paid incredibly low salaries. Thus, they are forced to play overseas, forfeiting any “off-season” and risking injury, all to make a living and support themselves and their families. This issue has recently been highlighted due to the devastating achilles injury of last year’s MVP, Breanna Stewart.
The deal with CBS is encouraging for many reasons, and the new revenue stream is not the least of these. Former NBA star and ESPN analyst Jay Williams got in on the conversation via Instagram positioning the WNBA as a great opportunity for Series A funding, specifically for the NBA. Williams explained that the WNBA is still in its infancy, just now entering it’s 23rd season, and should not be compared to the NBA which is finishing up its 72nd. As one of the fastest growing sports in the U.S., women’s basketball is a primetime investment opportunity.
Even the language the CBS vice president of programming used to explain the deal is a step in the right direction. Dan Weinberg said, "We are looking to partner with established brands that are growing with dedicated fan bases," he said in a phone interview. "The WNBA checks every one of those boxes. (Playing in the) spring/summer lends itself to our programming schedule. We are clearly and obviously talking about the best basketball players in the world at the highest level. Associating ourselves with WNBA, it's a great powerful established brand with popularity across the country." CBS recognizes the League is a strong brand and therefore is a no-brainer as a partner. It’s important for sponsors and media to not that the WNBA isn’t a charity case - it’s impact and influence is growing every year, and they should be eager to collaborate.
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