May 19, 2023; Los Angeles, California, USA; Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner (42) is defended by Los Angeles Sparks forward Joyner Holmes (24) in the first half at Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

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.

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.

[Sports Business Journal]

About Joe Lucia

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