The WNBA is on fire right now thanks to some outstanding ratings from the 2023 regular season.
On Wednesday, prior to the start of the 2023 WNBA playoffs, the league posted a press release that announced numerous milestones and records that the 2023 regular season set; all of which illustrate the WNBA's booming popularity.
The most impressive figure from the press release is that 2023 was the WNBA's most-watched regular season in 21 years. Viewership across the WNBA's national television partners — ABC, CBS, ESPN, and ESPN2 — was also up 21% from just one season ago, averaging 505,000 viewers per broadcast.
Per the press release, here are some of this season's other viewership highlights.
- The WNBA on ABC averaged 627,000 viewers, making it ABC's the most-viewed regular season in 11 years.
- The 2023 WNBA Regular Season reached over 36 million total unique viewers across all national networks, the highest since 2008 and up 27% from 2022.
- The 2023 AT&T WNBA All-Star Game on ABC was the most-watched WNBA All-Star Game in 16 years, averaging 850,000 viewers with a peak of 955,000 viewers.
- The 2023 WNBA Draft averaged 572,000 viewers on ESPN, up 42% over last year and the most-watched WNBA Draft since 2004 — when the WNBA GOAT Diana Taurasi was drafted 1st overall by the Phoenix Mercury.
Fans weren't just watching from home, either. The league also disclosed the attendance records that this season set — most notably that the WNBA had its highest total attendance in 13 years (1,587,488), which was up 16% for the 2023 season compared to 2022, and the average 6,615 fan attendance per game was the WNBA's highest since 2018.
Perhaps the craziest stat of all is about social media engagement. Across all @WNBA social media handles, the league generated a record 373 million video views this season, up 96% from the 2022 season. Having nearly double the exposure from just one year ago shows just how popular the WNBA has become.
The press release leaves no doubt that the WNBA just had its best regular season ever. The question is how they managed to do it?
Well, one answer is that the league has never been more talented than it is right now. Not only are there a plethora of extremely skilled players, but the game's biggest superstars are also more marketable than ever.
Then there's the two super-teams. After the Las Vegas Aces — whose Starting Five is essentially an All-Star team — won the 2022 WNBA Finals with relative ease, top-tier players around the league realized that they'd need to team up in order to compete against Vegas in the future. This led to the New York Liberty signing Breanna Stewart, Courtney Vandersloot, and then trading for 2021 WNBA MVP Jonquel Jones in the 2022 offseason; joining forces with Sabrina Ionescu to form the WNBA's East Coast superteam.
Having two star-studded teams like these was guaranteed to increase fan interest — but nobody could have predicted how much attention these teams would garner.
Regardless of how it happened, the most important takeaway from Wednesday's press release is that fans are finally realizing how fantastic of a product the WNBA is.
The best part about it all is that this year's WNBA playoffs will keep momentum rolling. Viewership, attendance, and social media engagement will continue to skyrocket — especially if the aforementioned superteams square off in the Finals. If this happens, it's only a matter of time before more superteams appear across the league — which will generate even more fan interest.
It's a good time to be a WNBA fan.
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