COBB: The real problem with the WNBA

Las Vegas Aces' guard Kelsey Plum (10) reacts after a referee calls a foul on a Chicago Sky player during a game on Sunday, June 11, 2023, at Michelob ULTRA Arena in Las Vegas. (Madeline Carter/Las Vegas Review-Journal/TNS)
Las Vegas Aces' guard Kelsey Plum (10) reacts after a referee calls a foul on a Chicago Sky player during a game on Sunday, June 11, 2023, at Michelob ULTRA Arena in Las Vegas. (Madeline Carter/Las Vegas Review-Journal/TNS)

Derran Cobb is a third-year journalism major and writes for the Daily News. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the newspaper.

The WNBA playoffs started Wednesday night. You probably didn't even know. 

In the 2023 WNBA regular season, there was an average of 505,000 viewers, the highest since 2002. The 2022 NBA regular season saw an average of 1.59 million viewers, in what was a slight decrease from the season prior. 

What was a great year for the WNBA is still nowhere near a down year for the NBA. Why is that? 

It’s simple really. The marketing.

The average comment on a X or Instagram post is typically trashing the league, saying something sexist. These aren’t real sports fans. A true basketball fan knows women can ball. 

Sure, women’s basketball might not have many flashy highlight plays outside of game-winners while the men’s game, however, has high-flying dunks, crazy handles, powerful blocks, etc. Those are the types of plays you’ll see on social media. 

That’s the problem, though. 

You can keep up with the NBA and see highlights on a million different social media accounts without even needing to watch the games, but the only time you’ll see a WNBA highlight is when you have to go looking for it on YouTube or from ESPN. 

Social media coverage of the WNBA is usually a clip of a play that’d be seen as “plain” in the NBA. Those are the posts that garner engagement because they are the easiest for someone to make a joke with. The real highlights only get posted by the official team page. 

On top of that, people only like to talk about the WNBA when the topic of salaries comes up. However, the common misconception is the athletes themselves even asked for equal pay.  

The United States National Team's Breanna Stewart, left, is guarded by Candace Parker of Team WNBA during the WNBA All-Star Game at Michelob ULTRA Arena on July 14, 2021, in Las Vegas. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images/TNS)

Las Vegas Aces guard Kelsey Plum explained she and other players aren’t asking to be paid the same as NBA stars. They want the same share in revenue. Plum said her jersey is sold in stores, but she never sees a dime. 

The NBA has a 50/50 revenue split between the owners and the players. In the WNBA, half of the shared revenue goes to the players, while the league keeps the other half. However, only 25 percent  of the player's half goes directly to player compensation.

The minimum salary in the NBA is $1.1 million, while the maximum salary in the WNBA is only $234,936. To make things worse, the players can’t negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement until 2025. 

Luckily, the WNBA is still a relatively young league, having had its first season just 27 years ago in 1996. For reference, the NBA has been around since 1946. 

As I mentioned earlier, this has been a great season for the WNBA. They reached an audience of 36 million unique viewers, saw its highest total attendance count since 2010, and generated 373 million social media views, a record. 

Of course, the on-court play has been fun this year, seeing five different records being broken, including New York Liberty forward Breanna Stewart recording six different 40-point games. Women’s college basketball has seen a spike in viewership and engagement as well, thanks in part to big names like Iowa’s Caitlin Clark and Louisiana State’s Angel Reese. 

This year’s playoffs should be must-watch, with fans hoping for a superteam showdown between the #1 seed Las Vegas Aces (34-6) and #2 seed New York Liberty (32-8) in the WNBA Finals.

With the game only improving year-by-year and viewership numbers continuing to grow, it’s time to push for better marketing. The league needs more TV deals, it needs more social media highlights and it needs more corporate sponsorships.
Contact Derran Cobb with comments at or on X @Derran_cobb.


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