Adam Silver working to grow WNBA interest in young women, contemplates moving season

NBA commissioner Adam Silver is working to grow the WNBA, particularly with a younger audience. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
NBA commissioner Adam Silver is working to grow the WNBA, particularly with a younger audience. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

The WNBA is gaining traction — there’s no doubt about that.

The league averaged more than 7,700 fans per game last season, its highest number since 2011. It averaged nearly 9,600 fans in the postseason, its best since 2010. ESPN’s broadcast of the WNBA Draft earlier this month drew a combined average audience of 212,000 viewers, up 25 percent from the year before.

Yet many of the WNBA’s teams are still losing money, and that’s a problem.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver spoke about that issue and how to keep growing the league on ESPN on Friday morning. The biggest issue, he said, is the league’s image problem.

Getting young people — particularly young women — to attend games is something Silver and the WNBA have been working on. The biggest demographic who supports the league, he said, is old men who like fundamental basketball.

And in order to get the league to draw more eyes, they’re contemplating moving the season away from the summer and into a more traditional spot in the winter.

“It’s been harder to get people to come to the games,” Silver said. “It may be because the games are in the summer. One of the things we’ve talked about is do we need to shift to the so-called more natural basketball season sort of in the fall and winter?”

Sure, maybe shifting the WNBA season to the winter — when fans are already used to watching most of their basketball — would help. But the league could also fall into the shadow of the NBA, college basketball, or even the NHL. Right now, it’s only main competitor in the United States in baseball.

While he admits that the league has improved tremendously since it first formed 21 years ago, Silver knows they have to keep growing — and growing with the right audience — if the WNBA is going to keep trending up.

“It’s amazing where the league now is from over 20 years ago when it launched, but we still have a marketing problem,” Silver said. “We have to figure it out. We have to figure out how to do a better job connecting to young people and get them interested in women’s basketball.”

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