After a terrific regular season, the 2023 WNBA Playoffs tip off tonight. This was a huge year for the WNBA, as the league just had its most-watched regular season in 21 years.
Viewership across its national television partners – ABC, CBS, ESPN and ESPN2 – was up 21% over the 2022 season. The league also set new highs in terms of its digital platforms, social-media engagement and sports betting. Here are some highlights from the 2023 campaign:
• Across ABC, ESPN and CBS, viewership was up 8% over last season and averaged 505,000 viewers. The WNBA on ABC averaged 627,000 viewers, making it the most-viewed regular season on ABC in 11 years.
• The 2023 regular season reached over 36 million total unique viewers across all national networks, the highest since 2008 and up 27% from 2022.
• Across all WNBA social-media handles, the league generated a record 373 million video views this season, up 96% from the 2022 season. The 20 million total actions/engagements and 1.1 million hours watched increased by 65% and 42%, respectively, from last season.
• The 2023 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; it was the most-watched WNBA Draft since 2004.
• The league introduced WNBA Friday Night Spotlight with new broadcast partner ION, where regular-season games were consumed for a total of 14 million hours.
• The WNBA's attendance was up 16% compared to last year. The average attendance of 6,615 fans per game was the highest since 2018. The WNBA had its highest total attendance in 13 years (1,587,488).
• The 2022 WNBA champion Las Vegas Aces saw the highest increase in average attendance (more than 66% year-over-year), averaging a league-high 9,551 fans per game. The Aces also hosted the highest-attended game this season, drawing a crowd of 17,406 against the Phoenix Mercury on September 10 on the final day of the regular season.
• Mercury All-Star Brittney Griner’s first home game in her return to the WNBA, against the Chicago Sky on May 21, drew 14,040 fans, third-highest for a WNBA game this season.
• The first WNBA Canada Game, which saw the Sky defeat the Minnesota Lynx 82-74 in a preseason contest, was played before a sold-out crowd of approximately 20,000 fans at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto on May 13.
• The WNBA's relaunched app with exclusive series, behind-the-scenes content and in-depth coverage saw downloads up nearly 400%. The league’s out-of-market live game package experienced 10% growth in subscribers this season.
• The season-opening game featuring the New York Liberty at the Washington Mystics on May 13 had the highest viewership in WNBA League Pass history, up 107% from the previous record-setting game on the platform. Content consumption was up across digital channels with League Pass total views for the season up 257%, and the WNBA website had a 21% increase in average time spent per visit during the regular season.
• On FanDuel Sportsbook, the number of bets on the WNBA more than doubled from last season. Individual bets on the marketplace increased by more than 163% year-over-year, and the WNBA handle was up more than 100%.
• The WNBA launched the WNBABet tab, featuring content from many of the league’s partners, including FanDuel, ESPN, The Action Network, Rotowire and the American Gaming Association.
• The 2023 WNBA Commissioner’s Cup Championship Game attracted the largest audience for a WNBA game ever for Prime Video, nearly doubling the viewership of last year’s Commissioner’s Cup Championship Game. The in-season competition saw the teams competing for a prize pool of more than $500,000. As part of the total prize pool, Coinbase provided a cryptocurrency bonus of $120,000 for players in the Championship Game.
• The 2023 WNBA season was dedicated to women’s health advocacy, with a focus on Black, Brown and LGBTQ+ communities. Throughout the season, teams, players and the league highlighted four key pillars of women’s health: maternal health, mental health, reproductive health and cancer awareness and education. Through the 2023 WNBA Commissioner’s Cup, each WNBA team chose a local women’s health organization to play for, with $200,000 donated to both local and national non-profit organizations committed to raising awareness about these important women’s health equity issues.
Why were fans so engaged this season? On the court, there were quite a few unprecedented things that happened this season:
• The Seattle Storm’s Jewell Loyd set a WNBA single-season record with 939 points.
• The New York Liberty’s Breanna Stewart had a WNBA-record six games of at least 40 points. In total, WNBA players produced a record 13 40-point games, 10 more than the prior record of three.
• The Connecticut Sun’s Alyssa Thomas posted a record six triple-doubles and broke the single-season record for total assists (316).
• WNBA players recorded a record 13 triple-doubles, six more than in 2022 (seven) and four more than in the league’s first 25 regular seasons combined (nine).
• The Phoenix Mercury’s Diana Taurasi became the first player in WNBA history to score 10,000 career points.
• The Las Vegas Aces’ A’ja Wilson became the fastest player in WNBA history to reach 3,500 points, 1,500 rebounds and 300 blocks.
• New York’s Sabrina Ionescu set records for three-pointers made in the regular season (128) and points scored in a single round of the WNBA Three-Point Contest (37).
It's a great time to be a fan of the WNBA, and this postseason seems to be one of the most highly anticipated WNBA Playoffs of all-time.