Opening Day viewership up 20% from 2019; ESPN and NBA TV to increase number of televised games

Following the WNBA's opening weekend success, ESPN and NBA TV will bolster their coverage of the regular season.

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Tipoff between the Los Angeles Sparks and Phoenix Mercury on Saturday, July 25, 2020. Saturday’s game was the most watched opening day game since 2012. (Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAEvia Getty Images)

The WNBA had a busy opening weekend, bringing back professional basketball to the U.S., furthering the fight for social justice and raking in fans from around the world. The weekend’s exciting slate of six games did not disappoint, and 540,000 average viewers tuned in to make Saturday’s second game between the Los Angeles Sparks and Phoenix Mercury the most watched opening day game since 2012, ESPN announced Monday. That match-up was broadcast nationally on ABC, and saw a 20% increase in viewership from last year’s game. 

This weekend saw the returns of Seattle superstars Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird from injury, a spicy semifinals rematch between the Chicago Sky and Las Vegas Aces and the rookie debuts of Sabrina Ionescu, Crystal Dangerfield, Chennedy Carter, Satou Sabally and more.

Following the successful return of basketball, ESPN announced that it would expand its coverage by broadcasting an additional 13 games across its networks, increasing its tally to 37 games this season. The network’s commentary team, duos of Ryan Ruocco and Rebecca Lobo and Pam Ward and LaChina Robinson, will continue to call the games remotely from their studio in Bristol, Connecticut while sideline reporter Holly Rowe remains at the WNBA clean site in Bradenton, Florida.

The regular season is set to continue until Sept. 12, with the additional ESPN broadcasts scheduled to begin on Aug. 15 and run through Sept. 10. Previously, ESPN’s original broadcast  schedule only included games during the first half of the regular season.

An announcement from NBA TV soon followed on Monday, with the network committing to expansive regular season coverage of the WNBA starting with Tuesday’s doubleheader featuring games between the Washington Mystics and Connecticut Sun and the match-up of the Sparks and Sky.

NBA TV is also set to televise additional WNBA games throughout the regular season, with other match-ups to be announced soon. Here are the games scheduled to be on NBA TV so far:

  • July 29 at 7 p.m.: Phoenix v. Indiana

  • July 30 at 8 p.m.: Chicago v. Minnesota

  • July 31 at 7 p.m.: New York v. Atlanta

  • August 1 at 4 p.m.: Minnesota v. Connecticut

  • August 1 at 6 p.m.: Washington v. Chicago

  • August 2 at 3:30 p.m.: Atlanta v. Indiana

  • August 5 at 8 p.m.: Las Vegas v. Washington

  • August 6 at 8 p.m.: Connecticut v. Dallas

  • August 8 at 5 p.m.: Chicago v. Connecticut

  • August 14 at 8 p.m.: Seattle v. Dallas

The complete 2020 WNBA schedule with the updated national coverage information can be found here.