Adam Silver: WNBA Ratings and Attendance Projections Too Optimistic

AP Photo
The Associated Press

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver expressed his disappointment Thursday over the fact that the Women’s National Basketball Association attracting far fewer fans than projected upon its founding twenty years ago.

Commissioner Silver expressed his frustration during an interview that was part of the Sports Business Journal’s Game Changers conference in New York this week.

“We thought we would have broken through by now,” Silver said. “We thought ratings and attendance would be higher.”

“I think we might have been ahead of ourselves 20 years ago in terms of what we were doing,” the NBA chief insisted. He then went on to note that they are struggling to find that “silver bullet” that will put them where they want to be with fans.

The lament is well founded.

As Buzzfeed reports, “In 2014, the WNBA-wide average attendance per game was 7,578 fans. The Phoenix Mercury lead the league with an average of 9,557 attendees per game in 2014, and the Tulsa Shock, who will move to Dallas-Fort Worth before the 2016, had the league-worst attendance with an average of 5,566 fans per game.”

Silver also complained that the national sports media are ignoring the WNBA.

“Leading into the playoffs that begin tonight, there’s virtually no coverage,” Silver said. “People in positions of power have to make a decision that WNBA matters.”

Silver went on to lament that the pay scale is probably too low for players and coaches but noted that there is no way to raise salaries to attract more talent without fans coming to the games to make the league more successful.

There has been a lot of speculation about the failure of the WNBA to catch on. The folks at the Bleacher Report, for one, have insisted that the league should just be shut down. Others have claimed that “sexism” has hurt the league. Others have said that the WNBA isn’t even a major sport and so doesn’t deserve the coverage that Silver covets for the league.

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