Only a month ahead of the 2023 WNBA season’s start in May, the league struck a new deal with Scripps Sports for a package of over-the-air Friday night broadcasts on ION stations. The league had high praise for that deal in a September release on its regular season ratings, but didn’t provide specific ratings for the ION games at that point. Now, Scripps and the WNBA have revealed some numbers for those games. Here’s more on that from a release:
The “WNBA Friday Night Spotlight on ION” increased this season’s total WNBA audience by 24% — from 31.5 million unique viewers to 39 million, according to Nielsen. The 31.5 million is total viewership of all other networks combined.
…The 23 games over 15 weeks reached a total of 12.3 million viewers.
…“The WNBA and Scripps Sports partnership has proven in its first year that ION is a powerful television platform that significantly increases the audience reach of the league,” said Adam Symson, president and CEO of The E.W. Scripps Company. “We’re looking ahead to next season to bring the athleticism and drama of the WNBA to even more fans, supported by the sponsors and advertisers that want to reach them.”
“When we partnered with Scripps Sports for the 2023 season, we were hoping their reach would drive WNBA viewership to higher heights, and Scripps overwhelmingly delivered,” said WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert. “New fans found us. Faithful fans embraced the appointment viewing. This success is only going to grow in the future.”
As noted there, this is a multi-year deal. It’s also one that grew significantly from the initial announcement of only 15 games, with some of those only available regionally. Scripps picked up more games, and found success with those games, with the release here also noting that these broadcasts added more than 6.4 million female viewers and “delivered an audience that was younger, more gender balanced and more racially diverse than a typical ION audience.” And they wound up with a prominent title sponsor in State Farm, and delivered a consistent viewing window on Friday nights.
And the ratings news here is more concrete than the discussions in September (which were largely around ABC, ESPN, and CBS Sports Network. Those only had only brief mentions of 14 million hours viewed on ION and the WNBA Commissioner’s Cup Championship Game becoming the most-viewed WNBA game on Prime Video. The actual numbers here illustrate that this partnership is working for both sides so far. And it will be interesting to see where the WNBA on ION broadcasts go in their second year.