Leading up to the start of the 2022 WNBA season, there is now another reason for basketball fans to be excited for the kickoff of a new year: Outside of the actual competition taking place on the court, fans can now enjoy tuning into games with fantasy in mind for the first time.
On March 8, ESPN announced it will launch Fantasy Women’s Basketball in early April, marking the first time that a major women’s sport has been at the center of a full-scale, season-long fantasy game. The game will be introduced before the 2022 campaign’s commencement on May 6.
ESPN to launch the 1st full-scale, season-long fantasy women's basketball game
• Early April signups begin, ahead of '22 #WNBA season
• With analytical tools & editorial insights to help fans manage rosters
• Available on the @ESPNFantasy App & onlinehttps://t.co/P6CVg6GK9x pic.twitter.com/bhuR2QWQXh
— ESPN PR (@ESPNPR) March 8, 2022
Fans will be able to enjoy a women’s fantasy game with customizable settings for the number of teams per league, scoring formats, player rosters, and public and private league options. Additionally, there will be exclusive league options for ESPN+ subscribers. Fantasy Women’s Basketball will feature analytical tools and insights to assist with drafts, rosters, trades, and more. ESPN’s newest addition to the fantasy sports collection will be available through the ESPN Fantasy App, which Apple and Android users can download.
This news is not only great for fans who enjoy fantasy sports, giving those folks another league and sport to bet on and pay attention to, but it’s also great news for the WNBA and women’s basketball at large. A fantasy experience dedicated to the women’s game will draw more attention to women’s basketball and help it continue to grow.
Bringing Attention to the WNBA, Helping the Game Grow
One of the biggest objectives the women’s basketball community has tried to accomplish is bringing more attention to the game and attracting more viewers to it. Like any sport, there are die-hard fans, casual fans, and fans who aren’t that interested in the league but will watch a game if it’s on TV.
Following the announcement of ESPN launching Fantasy Women's Basketball in the coming months, I'm curious on what you guys think about the news, what it might mean for the #WNBA and women's basketball and if it will persuade you to watch even more WNBA games.
— Mitchell Hansen (@M_Hansen13) March 8, 2022
With the inception of Fantasy Women’s Basketball, this new fantasy avenue might push those casual and not-so-interested fans into watching games more and following the league closer than they would have otherwise. That added attention to the WNBA will not only strengthen the overall fan base of the league but also help grow the game in general along the way.
Another aspect that fantasy will help with is continuing positive viewership trends for the WNBA and women’s basketball. As teams, the WNBA, and media outlets often report on social media and elsewhere, when games are made available to fans either locally or nationally, viewership has followed. ESPN, ABC, CBS, and other national TV networks—along with local networks—have often posted about record numbers of viewers following a game or event. It seems like women’s basketball and the WNBA are seeing an increase in following, and fantasy could help boost that while also getting even more games on TV and in front of fans.
Fantasy will drive up viewership as people pay close attention to the players on their fantasy teams and how they are performing on a nightly basis. We’ve seen viewership increase already, and we could certainly see that positive trend continue even more moving forward alongside the expansion of the number of interested fans.
Obviously, viewership is a big aspect by itself, but more folks tuning in will also lead to other positive outcomes for the WNBA moving forward. For a league that is ultimately trying to create more revenue, increased exposure and viewership will drive up returns from TV deals, sponsorships, and other partnerships, both in the present and in the future. Maybe that will result in earning enough money to actually provide charter flights for players and make other necessary improvements. Increased viewership will also help with eventually expanding the league beyond its current 12 team total, granted the WNBA still intends to do so.
It’s Fantasy, After All
Over the years, we have seen an increased interest in fantasy sports and betting, whether it’s with the NFL, NHL, MLB, NBA, MLS, or any other league. Sports fans love fantasy sports, and there’s every reason to believe that the insertion of the WNBA will eventually be equally as interesting to fans.
After all, it’s fantasy, and it’s a different aspect to your favorite sport outside of actually attending games or cheering on your team from home. You get a group of friends or family together for a league while perhaps playing for a cash prize up for grabs to the first-place finisher. Many fans enjoy it, and it has become somewhat of a pastime for sports fans.
Fantasy also helps fans get familiar with and learn about players and teams other than their favorite squad through being forced to pay attention to players on their fantasy team and how they are performing. The knowledge and respect that will be generated among the fan base will also be beneficial for the WNBA.
Overall, ESPN’s newest fantasy game, Fantasy Women’s Basketball, will do nothing but positive things for the WNBA and women’s basketball and will ultimately help it develop. It may take some time for the newest addition to the fantasy world to grow in popularity, but it could end up becoming equally as sought after by fans as it has been with other sports leagues.