all scores

WNBA posts its highest viewership on ESPN in 16 years

Breanna Stewart goes up against A’ja Wilson during Sunday’s contest in Las Vegas. (David Becker/NBAE via Getty Images)

The 2022 WNBA season finished as the league’s most-watched regular season on ESPN in 16 years, and its most-watched season overall in 14 years.

The WNBA averaged 372,000 viewers across 25 WNBA games on ESPN networks, a 19 percent increase over last season and the highest average viewership since 2008. Including CBS games, the league averaged 379,000 viewers, up 16 percent from 2021.

Sunday’s matchup between the Seattle Storm and Las Vegas Aces on ABC averaged 852,000 viewers and peaked at 1.1 million viewers, which made it the most-viewed WNBA game across all networks since 2008.

Ahead of the Storm-Aces game, the Minnesota Lynx and Connecticut Sun averaged 682,000 viewers (822,000 peak) on ABC, which made it the fifth most-viewed game since 2012.

The WNBA All-Star game brought in an average of 734,000 viewers — a 54 percent increase over 2021 and the most in six years. The WNBA draft also saw increased ratings, up 20 percent over 2021 with 403,000 viewers on ESPN.

The numbers not only point to an increase in interest in the league but also show that the league’s media rights may be undervalued.

The WNBA season average of 372,000 viewers on ESPN outpaces the 2021 ratings of the MLS, which averaged 276,000 viewers across 31 games on ESPN networks.

As part of the WNBA’s current deal with ESPN, the league received $27 million in 2021, and that number will grow to $33 million by the final year of the deal in 2025. Just this year, MLS signed a deal with Apple worth $250 million per season.

WNBA league averages also aren’t too far off of the NHL’s averages in the first year of that league’s deal with ESPN and Turner Sports. For the 2021-22 season, the NHL averaged 460,000 viewers per game – the league’s highest since 2016-17. That deal is worth about $400 million per year from Disney and about $225 million per year from Turner.

Aside from viewership, other league engagement metrics also increased. WNBA League Pass, which is the league’s out-of-market game package, experienced a 10 percent growth in subscribers, while web traffic to the WNBA’s website nearly doubled, with visits totaling 9.2 million — a 79 percent jump. Unique visitors were up 99 percent to 5.4 million while page views were up 83 percent to 23.8 million.

On social media, the league set records for engagement with 186 million views across all videos posted throughout the season, a 36 percent increase over 2021.

The WNBA playoffs begin at 8 p.m. ET Wednesday with a matchup between the Chicago Sky and New York Liberty.