ESPN extends deal with WNBA; financial details kept $ecret




Two big changes were recently announced by the WNBA: an extension of its current deal with ESPN for six years, and a new logo was unveiled.

“This new extension,” proclaimed ESPN President John Skipper at the March 28 press conference in New York, “ensures we will be together a minimum of 26 years. We have been with the league since it started in 1997.”

“I feel like we’ve spent the last three or four months meeting with literally every department within ESPN to talk about how these two great companies can come together and really take women’s sports to the next level,” added WNBA President Laurel Richie.

Up to 30 W games, including playoffs, the draft, and the all-star game, will be shown on ESPN during the extended deal that now runs through 2022. That adds up to only 180 games over the life of the contract in comparison to the 220 NBA games telecast each season on ESPN, ABC, TNT and NBA TV.

Alana Glass Photo by Charles Hallman
Alana Glass
Photo by Charles Hallman

This reporter unfortunately wasn’t invited to the press conference, but had I been, I’d have asked why the W won’t reveal the financial details of their multi-year television deal. I have consistently asked this over several years now.

Wikipedia says “millions and millions of dollars will be dispersed to the league’s teams” over the life of the ESPN-WNBA contract, but we really don’t know this for sure.  However, the W acts like Dean Weimer of Animal House with their double-secret big deal with ESPN.

“I will not comment on what that amount is, no matter how many times you ask me,” responded Skipper on this seemingly touchy subject.

“It’s not uncommon for organizations to choose not to divulge their financial information,” claimed Forbes Magazine blogger Alana Glass, who was a participant in the press conference.

Yet other “private pro organizations” have no qualms boasting about their bounty: The NBA gets $930 million a year from ABC, ESPN and Turner Sports through 2016. The NFL gets $40 billion annually through 2022, and the UFC (mixed martial arts and boxing) is getting a reported $100 million for seven years from Fox.

Print“At some point when [the WNBA] are ready to share financial information, they will,” Glass surmised.

The current NBA logo was modeled after Jerry West. The WNBA is currently conducting a social media guess-who-is-the-new-logo campaign after “Logo woman” was unveiled. The original logo “didn’t reflect the athleticism, the diversity, [and] the competitive nature of our game as we’re entering into our 17th season,” noted Richie, adding that the new logo gives the league “a brand-new identity.”

“The league was already vibrant, and I think adding this new flavor to it really set a good tone going into the season,” said Glass.

Preferably, the WNBA Logo woman is a Black female.

“There are current players [such as] Candace Parker and Sue Bird, but I personally am pulling for one of the founding women: Cynthia Cooper, Sheryl Swoopes, and Lisa Leslie. I think one of those names would be tremendous,” said Glass.


And the picking begins…

The upcoming April 15 WNBA Draft probably will be forever remembered as “The Big 3 and everyone else’s draft”: Britney Griner, Elena Delle Donne and Skylar Diggins will be picked, as expected, in the first three picks.

Minneapolis native Tayler Hill is expected to be among “the next group of players” available afterwards, perhaps to New York, which has the fifth and seventh pick, or San Antonio with pick number eight.

It would be interesting if Hill is still on the board at No. 12 when it’s Minnesota turn to select next Monday evening.


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