WNBA All-Star Game, Wimbledon Finals, Makes Big Fans Gain: Sports on TV

We’re officially in a summer slump on sports TV.

Not that there isn’t a lot of hard competition on the old boob tube. there. baseball, tennis, auto racing, WNBAFootball, Tour de France and NBA Summer League, UFC, Bowling, Cornhole, etc.

Nothing attracts large numbers of audiences, even by the atrophic standards of the age of umbilical cord cutting and epidemics. A year ago, the NBA Finals were forced into July due to chaos in the pandemic schedule, but in 2022, things are closer to before a natural pandemic.

Largest average live sports audience last week? Saturday night’s baseball games averaged for the Fox (Yankees-Red Sox and Giants Padres) 2.63 million. The NASCAR race in Atlanta on Sunday afternoon averaged 2.62 million on the USA Network for a close second.

A little lower on the list was an interesting event when it comes to sports TV audiences: The 26th WNBA All-Star game was broadcast live at 1 p.m. Sunday from the Wintrust Arena in Chicago and averaged 734,000 viewers on ABC, with a peak of 768,000. Wilson’s 134-112 win over Stewart’s team in the league is its best viewership since 2015.

While professional sports All-Star games have generally lost viewership as part of a broader trend of general audience decline — and possibly fan apathy and network/league manipulation — the WNBA’s improved numbers align with women’s sports general gain With viewers, networks and advertisers.

WNBA All-Star Game Viewership 2010-22

year network watching








No game *











No game *











No game *





no game **

* no game, the Olympics
** No match, Women’s Basketball World Championship

W’s show’s mid-season viewership peaked at 1.44 million in 2003—a completely different era of television. And that number didn’t include Nielsen’s viewership outside the home (bars, restaurants, etc.)

The All-Star Game also garnered more than 1 million viewers in 2005 on ABC. The first WNBA All-Star game aired on ESPN in 1999 and averaged 975,000 viewers per Sports Media Watch.

While viewership growth is positive, the WNBA remains very young compared to its older counterparts, and the league is still spawning its growth – the athleteChantelle Jennings by Chantelle defines fears over here.

An example on the media side is this year’s WNBA skills and Saturday’s 3-point competition initially set to go live on ESPN but bumped into the less visible channel ESPNU to accommodate the long-term Wimbledon men’s doubles championships, for every New York times. It’s hard to imagine the NBA equivalent hitting, say, The Ocho.

However, things appear to be moving in the right direction for the WNBA as a business – still split between the NBA and private ownership as a league and with its teams – under Commissioner Kathy Engelbert’s business-growth-oriented strategy launched when she took the helm in 2019. Part of That plan is to increase the regular season to 40 matches per team next season, up from 36 games played by dozens of clubs.

The WNBA averaged 317,000 viewers on Disney’s ESPN channels during the break, according to Sports Media Watch, and that’s 5 percent higher than a similar point last season. The data was not immediately available for league games on CBS Networks.

ESPN’s media rights agreement will expire after the 2025 season. A Report Last month from The IX website, which focuses on women’s sports, it said the ESPN deal paid out $27 million from the WNBA last season and will end up with $33 million in the last year of the deal. The website attributes the numbers to internal league documents it has viewed.

While the NBA requires more eyeballs and advertising dollars, expect to see the WNBA improve financially from its next round of media rights. Its games are currently broadcast or streamed on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3, ABC, CBS, CBSSN, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, NBA TV, and WNBA League Pass.

W doesn’t have to match the NBA, and no one expects it to. But it fills viewing holes and meet-and-greets with the demos that some advertisers crave – which is why every sport, including football, exists. Networks and leagues are starting to realize that women’s sports have been undervalued, so there are a lot of dollars to unlock.

football LeagueThe new $2.5 billion deal with Apple indicates that live sports real estate is still coveted by companies that want to access that space or enhance the value of the streaming and streaming services they currently offer. The Apple-MLS deal makes clear that W has choices about how it negotiates its next rights deal or deals.

While a lot can happen before a contract is signed, don’t be shocked if the WNBA at least doubled their fees with ESPN. or more than doubled.

baseball: Speaking of All-Star Games, MLB The version will air at 7:30 p.m. on July 19 on Fox from Dodger Stadium. The network will also broadcast the first round of the draft MLB Player of the Year at 7 p.m. Sunday, and on Monday the network will broadcast the Home Run Derby at 8 p.m. (also covered on ESPN2). Check back next week for a full summary of audience numbers.

Tennis: Wimbledon concluded this weekend with events that drew the largest television audience – the men’s and women’s singles finals. Serbian Novak Djokovic, who is chasing Rafa Nadal’s record-breaking record, won his 21st Grand Slam title on Sunday morning by defeating Australian Nick Kyrgios in four sets.

Their game averaged 2.24 million on ESPN, then 1.02 million again in the replay at 3 p.m. Sunday on ABC. Morning live viewers topped Djokovic’s 2021 Finals win with an average of 1.56 million, but it’s a far cry from Djokovic’s 2019 five-set win over Roger Federer who averaged 3.32 million viewers. Sunday also topped 2018 (1.05 million, Djokovic vs Kevin Anderson) and 2017 (1.39 million, Federer vs Marin Cilic), according to Sports Business Journal data.

Nadal had previously withdrawn from Wimbledon due to an injury.

On the women’s side, two players were chasing their first title on grass at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club. Russian-born Elena Rybakina, who in recent years has received Kazakh citizenship and Federation support, beat Tunisia’s Anas Jabeur in the women’s final in three sets on Saturday.

Their show averaged 1.21 million viewers for ESPN on Saturday morning and another 838,000 for its afternoon rerun on ABC. The number of live viewers increased from 729,000 last year and is on par with the 2019 final that included the famous Serena Williams.

The tournament’s overall viewership was trending upwards as the finals approached, but numbers aren’t available yet.

golf: Live coverage of the British Open – officially the 150th Open, for Chivas Irons fans reading along – begins at The Old Course at St. Round 3 coverage from 5-7 a.m. on USA Network and then 7 a.m.-3 p.m. on NBC and Peacock.

The final round is broadcast on Sundays from 4-7 AM on USA followed by 7 AM-2 PM on NBC and The Peacock. There will also be Peacock’s live coverage of the featured group from 1:30-4am and 3-4pm on Thursdays and Fridays.

Whew, that’s a lot to keep track of. Welcome to the era of live streaming and start times abroad!

This is the first open golf tournament since 2015, and there are expectations Personal attendance record Despite the rail strike. Will that also translate into big US TV numbers? We’ll find out soon enough.

The British Open certainly attracts an unofficial following of golf as one of the four major tournaments and its history: the tournament is the oldest in golf, having been first played in 1860. Before his death in 1994, my golf-obsessed grandfather fulfilled his dream of visiting St. Andrews personally – The course holds a special place in the minds of many golfers.

It’s hard to quantify this legacy from the TV numbers.

A year ago, NBC’s final round coverage averaged 4.17 million linear and streamed viewers for Colin Morikawa’s two-stroke win over Jordan Spieth at Royal St. George in England. It wasn’t held in 2020 because what you know, the 2019 tournament averaged 3.72 million (not including away viewing baked into Nielsen data since summer 2020) for Shane Lowry’s win at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland.

Historical television data for the British Open is limited, according to Sports Media Watch, and the peak audience of the final round in the United States was 8.6 million in 2000 for Tiger Woods’ first victory in the tournament and fourth win in a major tournament overall.

Woods plays at St Andrews this week and he certainly won’t hurt viewers, he’s also politely savvy comments About the Saudi-funded competition LIV Golf may fuel a bit of drama that could move the needle of television. But we will see. I suspect my average viewership on Sunday is about 5 million, and maybe more if Woods is in contention.

(And personal tragedies: The UK Open is a UK event organized in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, but never in Wales – which has an excellent course at Royal Porthkall in Bridgend, where my Welsh family hails.) Which organizes the British Open, He seems satisfied with the rotation of the links. Dewch â’ch act at ei gilidd, Yr R&A!)

All viewing data is from Nielsen, Adobe Analytics, and other metrics across network television, Nielsen, Sports Media Watch, ShowBuzz Daily and tournaments. All times Eastern unless otherwise noted.

(picture Candice Parker: David Banks / USA Today)