WNBA playoffs set huge viewership milestone, up 63% from 2020

·2 min read

The Chicago Sky’s run to their first-ever WNBA title was seen by more fans this season than any other WNBA championship run over the past seven years.

ESPN said on Thursday that the WNBA Finals averaged about 548,000 viewers per game, up 23% from last season and up 42% from 2019. It was the most watched Finals series since 2017.

All 17 playoff games drew a ton of eyes, too. All postseason games averaged about 367,000 viewers per game, the network said, which is up 63% from last season. In total, it was the most-viewed postseason the WNBA has had since 2014.

Candace Parker and the Sky beat the Phoenix Mercury in four games to claim the franchise’s first WNBA title last week. They were the first team not seeded No. 1 or No. 2 to win a title after ending the regular season with a 16-16 record.

WNBA viewership up across the board

Given how the WNBA’s 25th anniversary season played out, it’s no surprise that the postseason drew so many eyes earlier this month.

The league said in September that the 2021 regular season was the most-watched season since 2008, and that viewership was up about 51% from last year.

While that growth is a great milestone, the reasoning behind it is actually very simple. The WNBA had 100 games aired on national TV broadcasts in 2021 on either NBA TV, CBS Sports Network or an ESPN network. Outside of the 2020 bubble season, the last time the league had anywhere close to that many games on national TV was in 2008, when there were 81.

Nine games were broadcast on ABC this year, too, the same amount the league has shown in total over the past 12 seasons.

Games this season were simply much more accessible to fans.

Though there is still a lot the WNBA can be doing to help grow the league — making merchandise and jerseys available for purchase would be an easy start — having a season and playoffs draw so many people in is undoubtedly a great thing.

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