When the WNBA crowned the Las Vegas Aces as its 2022 champion on Sunday, ESPN concluded the most successful season in its 26 years as a league partner. This season, Disney networks dedicated more league coverage than ever before – more televised games, studio shows, specials, marketing and promotion – which resulted in record viewership and unprecedented exposure for the WNBA.
The superlatives have been impressive. Disney Networks were up across the board for the 2022 WNBA Draft, regular season, All-Star Game and postseason. It was the most-viewed regular season since 2008. The Draft and All-Star Game also saw double-digit increases from 2021. The postseason averaged 456,000 viewers – up 22 percent over 2021’s postseason – making it the most-viewed WNBA postseason since 2007. For more, click here.
With the WNBA’s expanded playoff format, coordinating producer Sara Gaiero and her incredible team were tasked with producing more games than ever – 49 in total. However, ESPN didn’t just commit to more games — we were dedicated to elevating our coverage of these amazing athletes with an expanded slate, as well as an increase in surround programming.
We started with our first-ever Free Agency Special in February and continued with the first-ever Draft Lottery Special, extensive coverage of the WNBA Draft, two days of All-Star Weekend festivities in Chicago and the addition of the WNBA Countdown pre-game show throughout the playoffs – not to mention increased visibility across major ESPN properties such as SportsCenter and NBA Today. Our production team increased its storytelling efforts with two new featured series – Inside Look with Holly Rowe on ESPN’s YouTube Channel and Off-Day with LaChina Robinson which was incorporated into our studio coverage. In addition, the Around the Rim podcast evolved into a digital show available weekly on ESPN’s YouTube Channel and ESPN Fantasy launched the first full-season women’s basketball fantasy game.
ESPN Social doubled the number of WNBA-focused social posts across the company’s various accounts in 2022. Those efforts resulted in 1.1 billion impressions, a 20 percent increase over 2021 and more than 193 million total video views, a staggering 90 percent jump from the prior year.
THE MOMENT THE ACES BECAME WNBA CHAMPIONS‼️ pic.twitter.com/emC4kITJdw
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 18, 2022
ESPN Marketing continued its multi-platform approach this season to drive WNBA viewership and female audience expansion through traditional marketing spots, targeted social boosts, digital storytelling and musical support – securing Grammy-winning artist Lizzo’s “It’s About Damn Time” to accompany various marketing activations.
The marketing team also made sure the retirements of WNBA legends Sue Bird and Sylvia Fowles received proper attention with targeted marketing spots, social executions, custom comic covers in collaboration with Marvel Entertainment and a “No Place Like Sports” billboard in downtown Seattle to honor Bird, who spent her entire 19-year career with the Storm.
ESPN’s Stats & Information Group launched a season-long WNBA video analysis production team in order to enhance our coverage even further – going as far as staffing a researcher in the control room for every game. The effort resulted in increased unique tracking statistics incorporated into live game telecasts, surrounding programming and espn.com digital content.
The 2022 WNBA season was a monumental growth year – and we feel it’s just the beginning. ESPN will continue to look for even more ways to elevate and showcase the incredible women throughout the WNBA. We have had a strong relationship with the league since its inception in 1996 and look forward to collaborating together for many years to come.