ESPN Sees Most-Watched WNBA Opener Since 2012; Opening Weekend Viewership Highlights Strong Start to 2020 Season


ESPN Sees Most-Watched WNBA Opener Since 2012; Opening Weekend Viewership Highlights Strong Start to 2020 Season

  • Weekend’s Four-Game Viewership Average up 63% Over 2019 Regular Season Average
  • ESPN Airs Cable’s Most-Watched Opener Best Since 2016
  • #OrangeHoodie #InItForGood Activation Paints Social Media WNBA Orange

ESPN’s WNBA opening weekend coverage (July 25 and 26 tipped the season off strong with Saturday’s opener between the Los Angeles Sparks and Phoenix Mercury on ABC becoming the league’s most-watched opener on the ESPN family of networks since 2012, delivering an average 539,000 viewers. ESPN’s four game opening slate averaged 401,000 viewers across ESPN and ABC, up 63% over the 2019 WNBA regular season average on ESPN’s Networks.

ABC Games
In addition to achieving a multi-year high, ABC’s viewership for Saturday’s Los Angeles Sparks vs. Phoenix Mercury match-up (3 p.m. ET) was up 19% from last year’s season opener on ABC. The game peaked during the 3:45-4 p.m. quarter hour at 617,000 viewers and saw its strongest numbers in the following markets:

Rank Market Average Rating
1 West Palm Beach 1.3
2 Atlanta 1.0
Kansas City 1.0
Tulsa 1.0
5 Norfolk-Portsmouth-N. Nws .9
6 Phoenix .9

ABC’s Sunday telecast between the Chicago Sky and the Las Vegas Aces (3 p.m.) averaged 433,000 viewers; the close game led to a peak audience of as 646,000 viewers watched in the final five minutes of the Sky’s victory (5:15-5:20 p.m.).

ESPN Games
ESPN’s Saturday telecast between the Seattle Storm and New York Liberty (noon) averaged 419,000 viewers, making it the most watched season opener on ESPN since 2016. The game peaked in the 12:30-12:45 p.m. quarter hour with 526,000 viewers. Top performing markets include:

Rank Market Average Rating
1 Seattle-Tacoma 1.2
2 Jacksonville- N. Brunswick 1
3 Birmingham .9

*The New York Market averaged a .5 rating and ranked 13th.

Sunday’s match-up between the Connecticut Sun and the Minnesota Lynx on ESPN averaged 202,000 viewers.

All viewership numbers are reflective of Nielsen’s regularly scheduled reporting. Nielsen’s fast nationals was used in previous reporting.

#OrangeHoodie #InItForGood
As part of ESPN’s “In It For Good” WNBA marketing campaign, ESPN launched the #OrangeHoodie social campaign, seeding the symbolic WNBA Orange Hoodie with NBA teams, professional athletes, celebrities and ESPN talent, all of whom shared their #OrangeHoodie selfie on social to show support for WNBA Opening day. Notable participants include Julie Foudy, Lebron James, Lil Wayne, Rebecca Lobo, Jessica Mendoza, Ja Morant, Dare Ogunbowale,Naomi Osaka, Sarah Spain, and Trae Young. The #OrangeHoodie effort garnered 16.4K mentions on Twitter with over 623 million potential impressions* resulting in the WNBA’s orange hoodie becoming the top selling item for the weekend on

*Source: NetBase Social Intelligence


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