Brittney Griner’s return to the WNBA on Friday night drew a more than two-decade cable high for a regular season game.
683,000 viewers watched Griner’s Phoenix Mercury fall to the Los Angeles Sparks. That’s the league’s most-watched regular season game since 1999, when a June Mystics-Liberty game averaged 722,000 viewers.
ESPN recorded its most-viewed regular season #WNBA game on cable in 24 years!
? Brittney Griner's @PhoenixMercury return against the @LASparks was the most-viewed Opening Day on ESPN platforms in 11 years
? 683K avg. viewers, audience peak 1M
? Up 103% year-over-year pic.twitter.com/CRNi5nADXK
— ESPN PR (@ESPNPR) May 22, 2023
Because of ESPN’s coverage of Stars-Golden Knights beforehand, the WNBA game didn’t even start until 11:30 PM on the east coast.
The game was the second most-watched WNBA game of the weekend. A Las Vegas-Seattle ABC game on Saturday afternoon barely outpaced it, averaging 684,000 viewers. The game airing prior on ABC, Atlanta-Dallas, averaged 593,000. A Sunday afternoon Chicago-Phoenix game on ESPN averaged 439,000. Notably, all four of those games were above last year’s Disney network average of 372,000.
The WNBA has a variety of national TV deals, including a touted new one with Scripps-owned ION that begins this week.