WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert Credit: CNBC

Coming off record WNBA Finals ratings last fall and an explosive NCAA tournament led by Caitlin Clark and the undefeated South Carolina Gamecocks, professional women’s basketball is looking to cash in.

In an interview on CNBC’s Squawk Box this week, WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert affirmed the league’s goal of “at least” doubling its broadcast rights revenue.

“We hope to at least double our rights fees,” Engelbert said. “Women’s sports rights fees have been undervalued for too long, so we have this enormous opportunity at a time when … the media landscape is changing so much.”

Previous reports indicate the league makes $60 million annually from its current package. The majority of that comes from ESPN on a deal combining NBA and WNBA rights.

Since striking that deal with ESPN in 2016 alongside the NBA, the WNBA has added smaller packages along the way. Most recently, the league struck deals with Prime Video on global streaming rights and an exclusive broadcast of the Commissioner’s Cup Final as well as The E.W. Scripps Company for a Friday night doubleheader.

“It’s going to be a hybrid no matter what,” Engelbert said, “but we’re really excited to get out on the marketplace.”

Engelbert said she hopes to set the league up for financial success for the next 30 years with the upcoming negotiations. She believes the next deal can open doors on contentious issues in the league such as player salaries and working conditions, including travel.

“If you look at the history of men’s sports … it is media rights that funds a lot of what happens in men’s sports,” Engelebrt said. “This is a long-term, sustainable economic model we are trying to build to fund things like charter and higher player pay, and we’re well on our way.”

Front Office Sports recently reported the WNBA is “quite likely” to negotiate a deal with Disney separate from the NBA this time around. However, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said this week it was in both “leagues’ interest to … do integrated deals” as a means of cross-promotion.

WNBA players also can opt out of their collective bargaining agreement with the league later this year, a decision which could amplify the stakes of the league’s broadcast rights talks heading into next year.


About Brendon Kleen

Brendon is a Media Commentary staff writer at Awful Announcing. He has also covered basketball and sports business at Front Office Sports, SB Nation, Uproxx and more.