The WNBA’s move to E.W. Scripps Company’s ION network has paid dividends in higher ratings and audience reach.
Scripps and the WNBA said on Wednesday that total viewership of its games rose by 24% to 39 million viewers for the season, a tally that includes all games on all networks.
The WNBA and Scripps completed the first year of a multi-year agreement to have ION carry 23 games in the season. ION built a weekly event billed as “WNBA Friday Night Spotlight on ION,” to generate more awareness of the games, following the game plan of the NFL’s Monday Night Football model. Scripps and the WNBA said that the games on ION reached a total of 12.3 million viewers.
After an experimentation with Twitter and a collection of local broadcasters, the WNBA last year signed with Scripps to run on ION. The league already has an existing contract on cable with ESPN, which runs through 2025. The WNBA represents just the latest example of how sports can prove to be a game changer for a streaming service or network.
“The WNBA and Scripps Sports partnership has proven in its first year that ION is a powerful television platform that significantly increases the audience reach of the league,” said Adam Symson, president and CEO of The E.W. Scripps Company. “We’re looking ahead to next season to bring the athleticism and drama of the WNBA to even more fans, supported by the sponsors and advertisers that want to reach them.”
ION, the fifth-largest network behind The CW, said it added more than 6.4 million female viewers to the network, and that the games drew an audience that was younger and more racially diverse and gender balanced than the typical ION viewer.
“When we partnered with Scripps Sports for the 2023 season, we were hoping their reach would drive WNBA viewership to higher heights, and Scripps overwhelmingly delivered,” said WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert.