2021 WNBA Season on ESPN/ABC Experiences Exponential Viewership Growth – Most-Viewed WNBA Finals Since 2017
- 2021 WNBA Playoffs are most-viewed postseason since 2014
- Regular season up 49 percent year-over-year
This year the WNBA celebrated its 25th season and with that came exponential viewership growth across multiple categories on ESPN networks. The 2021 WNBA Finals on ESPN networks and ABC – Chicago Sky victory over the Phoenix Mercury – averaged 548,000 viewers across four games, a 23 percent increase from 2020 (447,000 average viewers in three games) and a 42 percent surge from 2019 (386,000 average viewers in five games). The 2021 Finals are the most viewed since the 2017 Finals between the LA Sparks and the Minnesota Lynx, which registered 563,000 viewers.
Game 1 (Oct. 10, ABC) was the most-viewed opening game of the WNBA Finals since 2017, registering 456,000 viewers and peaking with 547,000. Game 2 (Oct. 13, ESPN) became the most-viewed Game 2 since 2003 and the most-viewed Finals game since 2017’s Game 5. The showdown recorded 789,000 viewers, peaking at a million for the primetime presentation.
Game 3 (Oct.15, ESPN2) notched 524,000 viewers and peaked at 591,000, making it the most-viewed non-title-clinching Game 3 since the 2007 WNBA Finals. The championship game (Oct. 17, ESPN) registered 417,000 viewers and peaked with 623,000 viewers, up 32 percent from 2019’s Game 4 between the Connecticut Sun and the Washington Mystics.
Most-Viewed Postseason Since 2014
Through 17 games (ABC, ESPN, ESPN2), the 2021 WNBA Playoffs averaged 367,000 viewers, 63 percent higher than the entire 2020 postseason (226,000 average viewers) and 42 percent higher than 2019 (258,000 average viewers). The strong showing in 2021 made it the most-viewed postseason since 2014.
Strong Regular Season Growth
The 2021 WNBA regular season averaged 306,000 viewers, a 49 percent increase over the 2020 regular season and up 24 percent over 2019. 2021 was also home to the most-viewed regular season game since 2012, when the Seattle Storm faced the Chicago Sky on August 15 on ABC, averaging 755,000 viewers. Four other ABC telecasts this season became most-viewed regular season games since 2012:
|July 11||Las Vegas at Dallas||643,000|
|May 15||Chicago at Washington||611,000|
|May 15||Las Vegas at Seattle||598,000|
|June 5||Las Vegas at Washington||556,000|
ESPN has been a WNBA rights-holder since the league’s inception 25 years ago and has a multi-platform rights agreement through 2025. This year, ESPN’s 2021 WNBA schedule featured 24 regular season games, as well as the WNBA Playoffs and Finals, the WNBA All-Star Game, and the annual WNBA Draft.