Despite The Hype, WNBA Will Lose $50M This Season: The Rookie Class Can Only Do So Much

Caitlin Clark alone can’t save the WNBA from losing money. Despite record-setting attendance and television ratings, the WNBA reportedly still faces a $50 million loss for the 2024 season.

The WNBA rookie class has been credited with taking the league to new heights financially , in popularity and in its standing against the men’s game.

WNBA players have a voice, a few sneakers deals and a slot in the daily sports talk conversation. 

WNBA To Lose $50M This Season

So what gives with the loss of the bag?

According to the WNBA, more than half of all the WNBA games so far this season were sellouts, which is an increase of 156 percent compared to 2023. 

The arenas have been filled to a 94 percent capacity, a 17 percent increase from 2023 and clear signs that people are coming out to support via the ticket gates. 

But according to Ben Strauss of The Washington Post, these new opportunities are doing no more than helping the league dig out of a $50 million L on its balance for the 2024 season.

“This year, the WNBA and its teams are still expected to lose around $50 million, according to two people with knowledge of the figures, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the league’s finances,” Strauss wrote.

The NBA has spent several years subsidizing the WNBA, and continues to do so today.

“The truth is, this league would be hard-pressed to exist without the NBA,” a WNBA team executive told Strauss.

Strauss reports that the NBA holds around a 15 percent equity stake in the WNBA. 

NBA commissioner Adam Silver says that the league loses around $10 million annually on the WNBA.

Strauss says the WNBA is spending an extra $25 million each of the next two seasons on chartered flights, which will put them in even deeper debt, but does endear the league to the public and its outcries for chartered flights for women players. 

WNBA Expansion and New $60M TV Deal

Despite the financial setback and the hole the league is digging itself out of, it’s headed in an upward direction, so much so that the league recently announced expansion franchises in Toronto and the Bay Area, while currently in talks to add two more.

In addition to expansion, the league is currently working on a new TV deal worth a reported $60 million, a figure Strauss claims could triple in the years to come.

It’s not an independent deal, however, as the exact amount is determined by the NBA, who brokered the deal as part of its own larger rights package. It then gives the WNBA a small piece. 

These real numbers definitely make understanding the WNBA a bit confusing to the average fan. Players and media often complain that the WNBA doesn’t get its fair share of the pie as it pertains to contracts, advertising and branding and overall visibility.

All of this may be true, but until the league can honestly stand on its own two feet without the NBA’s money the league will never be able to turn a profit large enough to increase salaries, improve travel, promote its stars, and make sure every game is on television

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