Caitlin Clark Indiana Fever May 18, 2024; Brooklyn, New York, USA; Indiana Fever guard Caitlin Clark (22) checks back into the game in the first quarter against the New York Liberty at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

A WNBA doubleheader on ABC drew the league’s second and third audiences of over a million viewers (after the league went a decade and a half without even one), but neither game could match Caitlin Clark’s debut a week ago.

Clark and the Indiana Fever averaged 1.71 million viewers for their loss on Saturday to the New York Liberty, the league’s second-largest audience in over two decades. Despite the window on ABC, the audience dropped compared to Clark’s debut with the Fever last Tuesday. That game, airing on ESPN2, averaged 2.12 million viewers.

In better news for the WNBA, much of the strong audience for Clark and the Fever stuck around for the second half of the doubleheader, a matchup between the Los Angeles Sparks and Las Vegas Aces. That game averaged 1.34 million viewers, the WNBA’s third-largest audience on ABC ever. Last week, despite stronger viewership for Clark in the early half of the ESPN2 doubleheader, the audience for the second game was much smaller. Only 464,000 viewers watched the Phoenix Mercury take on the Aces that night, up just 5 percent from last year’s comparable game.

The improved viewership for the second game is the bigger takeaway here for me. The WNBA and its media partners know people are going to be drawn to Clark and watch when she and the Fever play.

If the rest of the league doesn’t see increased viewership when Clark isn’t on the court, it’s in a pretty similar place compared to last year. But if fans are watching other teams and games without Clark playing, that’s a huge win for the WNBA and its future.

[Data via Sports Media Watch]

About Joe Lucia

I hate your favorite team. I also sort of hate most of my favorite teams.