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Why the Most-Watched Season Finale Series Has Flat Ratings Since 2006

The entire 2022 WNBA regular season on the ESPN network was the most watched since 2006, ESPN announced Tuesday.

The individual postseason games reached all-time highs promoted and celebrated by ESPN, which airs the entire league and playoffs. But all the “most watched in x years” or “for a decent percentage” story just skims the context and that explains the numbers and spots for a brighter future if adopted shows the light.

ESPN reported increased viewership in the regular season (20%), full season (22%), full postseason (22%), semifinals (45%) and playoff opening round (50%), the company said. . Despite the growth, Finals viewership remained constant despite what would normally be expected to be the most watched segment in the league. increased by just 30% compared to a 79% jump in 2021.

The WNBA had to move the finals from mid-October to mid-September because the FIBA ​​World Cup takes place in Sydney, Australia on Wednesday. We also have to deal with events already booked in the arena and available TV her window. Some things are out of the league’s control, but with media rights deals expiring in a few years, it all matters when evaluating what’s best for the growing league, which wrapped up its 26th season this week.

The league has heated up on postseason scheduling, especially with the Finals starting on the first NFL Sunday of the 2022 season. The Las Vegas Aces won their first championship on Sunday of NFL Week 2 and were the least-watched finals game in the past two years.

Yahoo Sports analyzed viewership numbers for the 2021 and 2022 Finals and the ABC games for each season. Going head-to-head on Sunday in the NFL doesn’t seem to be doing the league much favors.

Las Vegas ace Aja Wilson holds up the WNBA Championship trophy as the team celebrates after their victory over the Connecticut Sun in the 2022 WNBA Finals on Sunday. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

Why the WNBA Postseason ratings rose but the Finals fell

The Las Vegas Aces vs. Connecticut Sun four-game final was not a bad series when it comes to basketball. And the stories were rich. You may have gotten caught in bad programming.

The entire WNBA postseason is typically played against the NFL, with the MLB postseason taking place in October in addition to the end of the MLB season. That wasn’t the case this year, as all but the Finals ended before the NFL season started, and before her MLB playoff his race in the stretch. I also avoided the NBA preseason. This indicates that more casual her fans are tuning in, as viewership has steadily increased since the 2020 bubble season.

Here are the viewership ratings for each final game in 2022. Three of those games he played against the NFL. This was the first year that all finals were scheduled on ABC or ESPN.

tv set: ABC | Sunday, September 11, 3:00 PM ET

tv window: Opening day of the NFL season. Catch the end of the early afternoon window (1 ET) and cut into the kickoff of the late afternoon window (4-4:30 ET).

evaluation: 555,000 viewers (peak: 872,000)

point: That was an increase of 100,000 viewers from Game 1 between Chicago and Phoenix in 2021 on Sunday, October 10, week 5 of the NFL season. Although it was ABC’s daytime slot, ABC’s viewership tended to be lower than the regular season.

tv set: ESPN | Tuesday, September 13 at 9pm ET

TV window: Yankees vs. Red Sox (7:10 p.m. ET)

evaluation: 649,000 viewers (peak 706,000)

point: Game 2 was the most watched of the 2022 WNBA Finals and the only game not matched against an NFL game. The game schedule was different from 2021, when Game 2 was on Wednesday (780,000 average viewers) and Game 3 was on Friday (524,000 on ESPN2). From age 18 he was the most watched show on cable TV by age 49. Top shows for men ages 18-49.

tv set: ESPN | Thursday, September 15, 9:00 PM ET/6:00 PM PT

TV window: “Thursday Night Football”: Chargers vs. Chiefs (8:15 PM ET)

evaluation: 579,000 viewers (peak 686,000)

point: The Aces came close in what could have been the decisive one, but it was the Sun’s game after the first quarter. did. ABC is in more homes and often becomes the highest-rated game of the season. Plus, it shows how important it is to play against each other in the first week of the NFL season.

tv set: ESPN | Sunday, September 17 at 4pm

TV window: late afternoon NFL

evaluation: 396,000 viewers (608,000 peak)

point: It was the least-watched final in the last two years, falling short of the 417,000 who watched Chicago Sky win the title in Game 4 last year. The similarity is that they both aired on ESPN on Sunday afternoon (3pm ET in 2021). Catch the end of the first set in an NFL game and bleed to the start of the next set. It will be interesting to see how these Game 4 perform on ABC.

Importance of WNBA games on ABC

ABC’s Featured Games, the channel most homes have TVs in, can reach over 1.4 million viewers at its peak (Storm-Aces regular season finale). The NBA plays the finals on the primetime ABC spot, and the NCAA Women’s Basketball Final Four now airs on ABC.

When Yahoo Sports analyzed viewership spikes in 2021, it was clear that more games (100+) on larger networks contributed to viewership growth. He had nine games on ABC that year. This was the same number of games totaled on that channel over the 12 years from 2009 to 2020. And all that growth despite oddities such as in one night he schedules four games to chip at the same time. Nor is his schedule of standard tune-ins like the NBA’s Thursday night “NBA on TNT.”

ABC’s viewership, which airs almost exclusively WNBA on Sundays, will peak at 755,000 in 2021, an overtime thriller between Storm and Sky on the Olympic break. Her other four games exceeded her 550K.

These aspects hold true in 2022, with nine games airing again on ABC. And viewership numbers jumped even higher, peaking at 852,000 watching Storm and Aces as a nonsensical regular in his season finale. Indeed, the numbers were helped by the fact that it was Souvard’s last regular game of his season. Her Lynx-Sun games on ABC in the early days reached her 682,000 and featured the final game of Sylvia Fowles’ career.

Postseason 2022 games on the national network surpassed those records. An epic Game 3 of the Aces-Storm Semi-Final Series went into overtime and averaged 905,000. It peaked at 1.4 million, making it the most-watched WNBA game since 2008, surpassing the 902,000 who watched Game 5 of the 2017 Finals. Tuesday’s Game 4 was buried deep in the network’s lineup on ESPN2 and was watched by an average of 469,000 people.

But then a dip occurred in the Finals coinciding with the start of the NFL season. His three games against the NFL were his three lowest-rated games in the 2022 Finals. So will his two games on Sunday in the 2021 Finals.

Having the game on ABC obviously helps with ratings, but how much would ratings go up if there was no NFL on Sunday afternoons?

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