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WNBA Commissioner says league ready to capitalize on momentum: ‘Our phones are ringing off the hook’

The WNBA stands on the precipice of a mainstream explosion — nevertheless the league must tranquil accumulate broadcast and varied investment affords in instruct to make a stable financial foundation, in conserving with WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert.

In an interview with “NBC Nightly News” Sunday anchor Hallie Jackson, Engelbert acknowledged the league is working to capitalize on the rising interest in the girls’s game. Then again it’ll take outside commitments to manufacture it happen, she acknowledged.

“We want the ecosystem, finally, the sports activities ecosystem to step up,” Engelbert acknowledged. “And I believe no doubt felony that that’s going to happen with our subsequent media rights negotiation, along with to our company partners. Our phones are ringing off the hook.”

Viewership for ladies’s college basketball soared to all-time highs this 300 and sixty five days on the reduction of Caitlin Clark, the Iowa phenom who closing season broke the all-time NCAA basketball scoring file held for 50 years by Pete Maravich.

But after Clark modified into once selected No. 1 overall in the draft by the Indiana Fever, the league modified into once criticized as a consequence of she’s going to manufacture a heinous wage of accurate $76,535 as a rookie.

Caitlin Clark and WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert on April 15 after the Indiana Fever selected Clark first overall on the WNBA draft.Adam Hunger / AP file

That raised concerns about parity with the NBA, the set up rookies assemble no decrease than about $1 million and, most frequently, extra. It also drew consideration to the fact that many ladies’s avid gamers opt to play in a international country, the set up they’ll doubtlessly assemble extra.

WNBA avid gamers and the league negotiated the $76,535 figure in January 2020 in conserving with revenues as both facets signed a collective bargaining agreement. Whereas the league has acknowledged it doesn’t touch upon its financial files, a most up-to-date Bloomberg News file acknowledged annual WNBA revenues indulge in topped out at about $315 million.

That is an development since Engelbert took over in 2019.

“There’s no query after I got right here into the league, deal of of us did conception it — any individual requested me whether we were a charity,” Engelbert acknowledged.

Gathered, the positive aspects pale when in contrast to the roughly $10 billion in earnings that has been widely reported and recognized for most up-to-date NBA seasons.

Both leagues’ revenues are driven to a abundant diploma by what they’ll accumulate for TV affords. Bloomberg News reported closing week that the WNBA’s most up-to-date TV deal has been fee about $60 million. That compares with the multibillion-greenback affords that the NBA has with Disney and its ESPN and ABC networks, which it is attempting to gain with varied bidders.

Bloomberg acknowledged fresh affords being signed by the NBA consist of valuable will enhance for payouts to the WNBA.

Whereas Clark has won a foothold in the American consciousness in a manner few — if any — varied female basketball avid gamers ever indulge in, a whole generation of avid gamers is coming in on the an identical time, who, fueled by social media, could furthermore tranquil abet solidify the league’s growth.

They consist of Angel Reese, now on the Chicago Sky, who led LSU to a nationwide championship against Clark’s Iowa in 2023. Reese recently attended the Met Gala.

Another is Cameron Brink, a Stanford standout taken No. 2 overall on this 300 and sixty five days’s draft by the Los Angeles Sparks. She has already signed sponsorship affords with New Balance, Metropolis Outfitters and Netflix.

Washington Mystics center Shakira Austin, coming into her third 300 and sixty five days in the WNBA, recently talked about the fresh generation with NBC News — and how the league must live up to expectations.

“Final 300 and sixty five days, we had peaks in attendance, peaks in gross sales and tickets, and it accurate shows that folks were dedicated to this sport,” Austin acknowledged. She persevered: “I believe we’re accurate going to continue to elevate and, , optimistically our league is ready to, , reduction it up and be ready for the distinction we’re about to accumulate.”

Certainly, even as big alternate appears to be afoot, some observers converse they must learn about it earlier than they’ll have confidence it’s genuinely going on.

“Moderately a few of us are asking if the WNBA can meet the moment,” acknowledged Aaron Barzilai, founder of, which tracks WNBA files. “They’re hopeful, nevertheless there’s tranquil an ingredient of ‘We’ll learn about.’”

Engelbert acknowledged she is optimistic the league is able to taking a valuable financial jump in the speedy and medium term. It has already dedicated to provide charter flights for all away games thru a fresh partnership with Delta Airways.

“We wished to make extra earnings, prepare charges and finally return that to the avid gamers,” Engelbert acknowledged. “Then again it doesn’t happen over a 3-300 and sixty five days duration.”

She pointed to the league’s success in elevating $75 million in venture capital as a hallmark of the rising interest.

“We’re searching to double earnings, we’re searching to triple issues, we’re searching to quadruple issues, five-instances issues, and it’s working,” she acknowledged. “It’s actually working, nevertheless it’ll take a few extra years.”

She acknowledged it hasn’t been easy to accumulate to this point.

“That’s what momentum is all about, is making particular that we’re providing household names, rivalries and games of all the diagram thru our season this 300 and sixty five days so of us will attain and witness,” she acknowledged. “And after they witness we know they defend.”

Rob Wile

Rob Wile is a breaking alternate files reporter for NBC News Digital.

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