After record-setting viewership for Game 1 of the 2023 WNBA Finals, Game 2 on Wednesday saw a marked decrease in fan engagement and interest.
According to SportsMediaWatch, the Las Vegas Aces' blowout 104-76 win over the New York Liberty on Wednesday drew 626,000 viewers on ESPN — marking the smallest Game 2 audience for a WNBA Finals in three years. What's more, viewership for the Aces' big win declined four percent from the Finals Game 2 between the Aces and Connecticut Sun last year, which attracted 649,000 viewers.
Wednesday's poor viewership was a stark contrast to Game 1 of the WNBA Finals on Sunday, which was the most-watched WNBA Finals Game 1 in 23 years. That game — which the Aces also won big, by a score of 99-82 — drew 729,000 viewers on ABC. This viewership feat is even more impressive, considering that Game 1's 3PM EST start time coincided with the peak of Sunday's NFL football action. In fact, Game 1 delivered the largest Finals audience on an NFL Sunday since the Los Angeles Sparks played the Detroit Shock in Game 2 of the 2003 WNBA Finals — which was the first time the WNBA Finals went head-to-head with the NFL.
Game 1's record-setting success begs the question: why did so few tune in to Game 2?
While there are a few potential answers, a main one is surely a lack of competitiveness. Considering that the Aces and Liberty were the two best teams in the WNBA this season (by a long shot), and each team's roster boasts many of the league's best and most exciting players, this Finals matchup was not only highly-anticipated, but also expected to be evenly-matched. So when Game 1 wasn't closely contested like many had predicted, Game 2 viewership surely suffered as a result.
Now the question is whether Game 3 on Sunday will rebound, or whether viewership will continue to dwindle. The Aces routing the Liberty for a second straight time on Wednesday doesn't bode well for attracting fans who want to watch an exciting series. Yet, with Game 3 being on the Liberty's home turf — combined with that fact that they've drastically underperformed thus far, compared to what they're capable of — one would imagine that they'll perform better than they did in the two Vegas games. Hopefully this is enough to reel viewers back in.
Or perhaps the prospect of Las Vegas winning Game 3 and securing back-to-back WNBA Championships will bring eyes to Sunday's matchup. Championship celebrations always make for a fun watch.
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