Scoop: ESPN launching WNBA fantasy
ESPN is launching Fantasy Women's Basketball ahead of the 2022 WNBA season, Axios has learned.
Why it matters: It's the first season-long, full-scale fantasy game dedicated to a major women's sports league. The game will be available in early April ahead of the season opener on May 6.
The backdrop: This comes on the heels of exponential viewership growth for the WNBA in 2021, and is the latest example of women's sports gaining investment and exposure.
- The WNBA raised $75 million last month in what it called the "largest-ever capital raise for a women's sports property."
- Disney networks will broadcast 25 regular-season games during the 2022 WNBA season and a record-tying nine will air on ABC.
The big picture: Fantasy sports is a multi-billion dollar business, with 20 million players on ESPN alone. It's especially popular among younger fans, who tend to follow players more than teams and seek direct engagement over passive consumption.
- Daily Fantasy Sports platforms like DraftKings and FanDuel have offered WNBA action since 2017, but season-long games are uniquely immersive.
- Groups of friends and colleagues often turn draft night into a social event and millions have come to rely on their fantasy leagues as a way to stay in touch. Now, WNBA fans get to experience that.
The bottom line: Managing a fantasy roster for a full season increases awareness of — and interest in — live games, which ESPN and the WNBA hope ultimately leads to more viewership and engagement.
Of note ... Shoutout to Sports.ws, a niche fantasy basketball site that has offered season-long WNBA games since 2019.