NBA Commissioner Says Negotiating Rights Deal Jointly with WNBA is Best for Both Leagues

Speculation has arisen of late that the WNBA could seek its own media deal in this round of negotiations, but Adam Silver wants to keep the two leagues together.


Just how valuable an asset will Caitlin Clark be to the WNBA? The former Iowa guard’s stardom could be worth tens of millions of dollars to the league, which sees its broadcasting deal with ESPN expire after the 2024-25 season. The WNBA is currently negotiating a new broadcast rights contract jointly with the worldwide leader in sports alongside the NBA, but reports indicate that the women’s league could strike out on its own and make a new deal without the NBA’s help. But speaking at the NBA Board of Governors’ meeting this week, league commissioner Adam Silver said that he believes that the two leagues are best off negotiating with broadcast partners together.


Sliver pointed out that the year-round schedule of the NBA and WNBA made them natural negotiating partners.Prime Video recently agreed to a new deal to stream 21 exclusive WNBA games per season.The WNBA wants a raise over the $60 million per year it collects from its current broadcasting deals 



Silver explained to the assembled governors (the NBA term for team owners) that the schedules for the two leagues are a big reason that they should stick together in rights negotiations. The NBA’s season spans 260 days, and the WNBA’s makes up another 60 days. Since there is nearly no overlap between the two schedules, programmers and broadcasters are able to secure year-round content if the leagues are bundled together. In an era when every entity in entertainment is hoping to avoid churn and keep viewer numbers as high as possible, so providing unique content in all months of the year is a major benefit.



Will Caitlin Clark Bring WNBA a Big Payday?

One counterargument to Silver’s point about the advantages of negotiating a join NBA and WNBA deal is that the WNBA could benefit from partners who lose out on NBA rights. The NBA is reportedly seeking to double or triple the revenue brought in by its current broadcasting deal, and broadcasters who are priced out of NBA negotiations may pursue the WNBA that much harder if it can agree to a separate deal. The WNBA currently collects around $60 million per year for its rights but reportedly wants to up that number to between $80 and $100 million as the demand for women’s sports has skyrocketed in recent years.


Then there’s the Clark factor to consider. Superstar guard Caitlin Clark has captivated audiences during her college career as an Iowa Hawkeye, helping to drive record viewership for the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament championship game two years in a row. She’s universally expected to be the No. 1 overall pick in Monday’s WNBA Draft, and as a result the league’s schedule makers have ensured the team owning that pick — the Indiana Fever — will play the vast majority of their games on nationally-available channels and streamers this year.


Clark’s stardom could compel broadcasters to pony up more for WNBA rights whether or not the league breaks away from the NBA to create a second deal. But her presence and her effect on ratings is undeniable leverage for the league, and that leverage becomes more powerful if it’s negotiating a deal of its own.


It seems likelier than not that the WNBA will stick by the NBA in its rights negotiations for now, which would be exactly what Adam Silver wants.


“At the end of the day it’s the [same] game,” Silver told NBA owners. “To the extent that we come up with ways to better present the game … in a way that makes it even that much more enticing to fans, there’s real opportunities to scale there when you put the NBA and the WNBA together.”


Gideon Canice

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