Mar 22, 2024 - News

Don't waste Caitlin Clark

Caitlin Clark with her arms out

Caitlin Clark during the Big Ten women's basketball tournament championship on March 10. Photo: Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

With Caitlin Clark, the WNBA is getting the type of star who can permanently alter the league's future, writes Axios' Tim Baysinger.

Why it matters: Clark's arrival coincides with WNBA television rights negotiations, creating an urgency for the 27-year-old league to capitalize on a once-in-a-generation opportunity.

Catch up quick: Next month's WNBA draft, in which Clark is expected to be taken first overall by the Indiana Fever, comes as the league nears the end of its exclusive negotiating window with its incumbent TV partners.

  • For the WNBA, the timing could not be better.
  • The league opened its 45-day exclusive negotiating window with its current TV partners Disney, Ion, Amazon and CBS Sports on March 9.

Follow the money: The deals and partnerships will directly impact the league's revenues.

  • Low salaries have been a frequent pain point among WNBA players — for example, Clark can make just $76,535 for her first season.

By the numbers: Clark has delivered TV ratings at Iowa that should translate to record WNBA audiences.

  • The March 6 game between Iowa and Ohio State was the most-watched regular season game in 25 years, with 3.4 million viewers.
  • Her National Championship matchup against Angel Reese and LSU last spring is the most-watched women's college basketball game in history, with nearly 10 million viewers.

Reality check: Women's college basketball has often been a bigger platform for stars than the WNBA, among the youngest pro leagues in the country.

What they're saying: "I don't buy the argument that she's going to lose popularity because she's going to the W," says Sara Gotfredson, who runs Trailblazing Sports Group.

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