Wednesday, September 08, 2010

How Not to Use the Sports Media

What a great time to be a sports fan--college football underway, the NFL to start this weekend, baseball pennant races, the U.S. Open tennis reaching a climax, Ryder Cup golf coming up, racing still going, etc.

Seemingly lost in all this in the WNBA, which opens its championship round this Sunday at 3pm on ABC. That's right ... the WNBA is going toe-to-toe with the opening weekend of the NFL regular season. That shouldn't do much to help the WNBA's regular season cable ratings of 0.2 on ESPN2, which translates to about 263,000 viewers. By contrast, the NBA regular season drew 1.65 million or a 1.1 rating on ESPN.

The WNBA is doing everything it can to hold on in tough economic times. This year it signed new sponsorship deals and doubled the number of jersey sponsorships. (See the cool sponsored jerseys in the picture? Hint: they are not a reference to former NBA great Dave Bing).

The fundamental rule of the sports media, especially television, is "thou shalt not compete with the NFL if at all possible." Major league baseball knows that, having moved most of its playoff games out of direct competition with the NFL, and even the popular NCAA football doesn't try to compete. If the WNBA is truly going to make it, the league needs to adjust its schedule to 1) maximize television exposure and 2) avoid the NFL. What about a season that starts in January and ends with the playoffs in April? Yes, I realize that puts them in direct competition with NCAA and NBA basketball, but that's still better than the current summer-early fall schedule, which puts the regular season in July and August when people are at the beach, and the playoffs in September when everyone's attention turns to football. The NBA, which bankrolls the WNBA, doesn't want direct competition, but does it honestly think that a significant number of people would switch channels?

I'm not sure what the over/under is on Sunday's television ratings, but my guess is you'll need a microscope to find them.


Post a Comment

<< Home