Following on from last week’s news that male players in the G League, the NBA’s developmental circuit, would receive an increase in their base salary to $35,000 per season, Michelle Beadle asked Silver how WNBA players could get a bigger share money generated by their league.
“By growing the business” Silver said. “WNBA players are still paid way more than G League players, certainly the better players, but at the end of the day it’s not a Title IX issue, it’s a business issue and we have still a number of teams losing money. … We haven’t found a winning formula, to be quite honest.”
According to a studyWNBA players receive only 20 percent of the league’s total revenue, with salaries ranging from $39,000 to $115,000 per season. In 2016The New York Times reported that half of the league’s 12 teams were losing money.
NBA players, for comparison, receive about half the money their league brings in. That league is currently in the second year of a nine-year, $24 billion television deal with ESPN/ABC and Turner Sports, and player salaries have skyrocketed as a result.
Silver said the WNBA faced two main problems, one being attendance, and he considered whether the league’s schedule could be aligned with that of the NBA and college basketball. Last year, the season ran from mid-May to early September, a change from previous years in which the WNBA Finals were not held until mid-October, when the professional and college football is in full swing and the Major League Baseball playoffs are also attracting. attention.
“We have a lot of empty seats in our buildings,” Silver said. “The ratings have been okay on ESPN, (but) it’s been harder to get people to come to the games, maybe because the games are in the summer. One of the things we’re talking about is whether we should move to the so-called more natural basketball season, sort of in the fall or in the winter. Maybe that’s part of the problem.
WNBA games averaged 7,716 fans per game in 2017, the highest number in six years, but far from a significant improvement. WNBA games did not average 8,000 fans per game since 2009and the 2017 figure was down 28.9 percent from the league’s record attendance in 1998, which was the WNBA’s second season.
Moving the season to the fall would be risky, given football’s stranglehold on the fall and an already crowded basketball market that now kicks off in mid-October (for the NBA) or early November (college basketball ). By holding its season during the summer months, the WNBA avoids these potential competitors and provides television networks with live event programming during a time of year filled primarily with baseball and Major League Soccer.
Silver also expressed surprise at the demographics of the WNBA’s die-hard fan base and discussed the league’s struggles attracting female fans.
“It’s interesting: Women’s basketball is largely supported – just in terms of demographics – by older men, for whatever reason, who love fundamental basketball, and that’s something I I talked to the players a lot,” he said. “We’re not connecting with nearly the same demographic as our players. I always say our players are between 21 and 34, let’s say, in that age range. I say (to the players), ‘Why do you think we don’t get your peers to want to watch women’s basketball?’ »
“So in a way I think it’s a good problem in that I think the game looks fantastic, and it’s amazing where the league is over 20 years ago when it launched,” Silver said, “but we still have a marketing problem, and we need to solve it. We need to figure out how we can better communicate with young people and how they might get interested in women’s basketball .
Mystics star Elena Delle Donne had to watch Silver’s segment. She tweeted her thoughts on the subject at Beadle, as well as her gratitude for pressing the issue.