Caitlin Clark and other rookies draw near-record crowds, record ratings for 1st month of WNBA season

NEW YORK (AP) — The first month of the WNBA season drew its highest attendance since the league’s second season in 1998 and the best television ratings in its history, the WNBA announced Tuesday.

The figures are the latest evidence of the surging popularity of the WNBA since it added prominent rookies including Indiana’s Caitlin Clark, Chicago’s Angel Reese and Los Angeles’ Cameron Brink, all of whom drew big audiences playing in college.

Across ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, CBS, ION and NBA TV, WNBA games are averaging 1.32 million viewers, nearly tripling last season’s average of 462,000, the league said on Tuesday.

“What’s happening now in women’s basketball is confirmation of what we’ve always known: The demand is there, and women’s sports is a valuable investment,” said Colie Edison, the WNBA’s chief growth officer. “We’re encouraged by growing engagement across all our verticals, especially as we welcome new and diverse audiences into our fandom. The WNBA continues to experience sustained growth as our league embraces this heightened momentum.”

The WNBA finished May having sold out more than half its games, more than double the number of sellouts last year. Approximately 400,000 fans have attended games, the most through the first month in 26 years.

Arenas have been filled to 94% capacity, a 17% rise from last year, the league said. Some games have been moved to bigger arenas to accommodate increased fan interest, such as Clark and the Fever playing at the Washington Wizards’ downtown arena in front of 20,333 fans last Friday night instead of the Mystics’ usual venue, which seats 4,200.

On the television side, the WNBA said it saw a 96% increase in Hispanic viewers and a 67% increase in Black viewers.

Merchandise sales rose 236% from the same period last year, with Clark, Reese and Brink ranking in the top five for jersey sales during the first week of the season.

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