The WNBA Finals tipped off last night with a victory for the Detroit Shock over the San Antonio Silver Stars (I had to look that one up), 77-69. The League is touting an increase in ticket sales and TV viewership this season, which is nice. But then I looked at the numbers. The average rating of a WNBA game this season was 0.32 on ABC and ESPN2. That is shockingly low. Embarrassingly low. The number of average viewers? Up to 413,000. Last season, ESPN averaged over 1.4 million views for its NBA games, and ABC's lowest average rating was a couple years ago with a 2.2. Who's responsible for these much lower ratings?
I'm just surprised the numbers are as low as they are for the WNBA. When I watch WNBA action, I feel I'm more sitting down to appreciate something than enjoy it. I can see the plays are more scripted, the teams more thoughtful in what they do. And I can appreciate that. But when I watch the NBA, I'm doing it to enjoy the game, to sit back and be entertained. I'm wondering if other people feel the same, and that's why the ratings are at least 70% lower for the WNBA.
I was in a conversation a couple months ago about this. Whose responsibility is it to build the WNBA's viewership? Do ESPN and the sports pages of newspapers have a responsibility to promote women's basketball? Is it up to the fans to support the league as hardcore as possible? Is it up to the League?