Adam Hunger / AP
Thursday, April 20, 2023 | 11:26 a.m.
NEW YORK — The WNBA and Scripps have signed a multiyear deal to televise Friday night regular-season games on ION.
The plan, announced Thursday, is to show approximately 44 games over 15 weeks — starting on May 26 and running to Sept. 8. There will be national games that the entire country can see, as well as ones shown in regional markets in two TV windows on Fridays.
“Fans would understand every Friday on the broadest platform, they could gather around the television and watch the WNBA,” Scripps president and CEO Adam Symson said in a phone interview. “We’ve seen the power of that kind of franchise and appointment setting viewing with the NFL with Sunday night football and Thursday night. This is an incredible opportunity to be able to provide that kind of viewing experience for WNBA fans.”
The WNBA is the first sports league to air on ION and is the first sports property on the new Scripps sports platform. The league will produce all the games, but details of the programming around the games are still being worked out.
“To be the inaugural partner is really groundbreaking,” WNBA Chief Growth Officer Colie Edison said. “The media landscape continues to evolve. We are at the forefront of that evolution.”
Over the past year, there’s been major viewership momentum for women’s basketball. The 2022 WNBA regular season was the most viewed on ESPN since 2006. And this year’s women’s NCAA Tournament had its highest viewership ever for the title game between Iowa and LSU that drew 9.9 million viewers; it was the first time the championship game was shown on ABC.
The WNBA’s current deal with ESPN is up in 2025. The network will show 25 regular season games this year and the entire playoffs again.
WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said of the deal with ION: “Access to watch WNBA games is in high demand, and Scripps’ dedicated Friday night lineup of WNBA games on ION will become much desired appointment viewing for WNBA fans.”
Symson also said that the deal was a “perfect marriage.”
“Women’s sports have been squeezed in major programs around other things,” he said. “It’s time for women’s sports to actually be the primary game of the week. That’s what it will be for us.”