September 2, 2022 

Daily Briefing — Sept. 2, 2022: AUSSIE AUSSIE AUSSIE — The WNBL comes to ESPN, 9Now

Lauren Jackson is a good omen

Happy Friday! Welcome to The Next’s Daily Briefing. On Thursday, the Australian Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) announced the largest media rights acquisition in the league’s 43-year history. This season, ESPN will show 16 regular-season games in Australia, one game every Wednesday night, beginning with tip-off on Nov. 2. ESPN will also air the WNBL finals. The remaining 68 games will be be shown on 9Now, the streaming platform of Australian public media company Nine Entertainment. For viewers outside of Australia, no changes have been announced and games will likely continue to be available on FIBA’s YouTube channel.

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“This deal gives us a home for the next two years, which provides us with an enormous opportunity to really lift the profile of the league, the clubs and the incredible athletes that are part of it,” WNBL president Christy Collier-Hill told The Sydney Morning Herald.

Previously, games were available on Fox Sports’ Kayo streaming service, with occasional games available for free, along with one game per week on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) channel. Now, with one of the top production companies in Australian sports media, JAMTV, signing on as the WNBL’s production partner, the timing of the deal couldn’t be better for the burgeoning league.

The year 2020 saw the first Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) to come out of the WNBL and the Australian Basketball Players’ Association and, in 2021, the Total Player Payment (TPP) system was introduced. TPP has resulted in the highest average player wage in league history, while significantly increasing team spending. Balancing expanding player pay with ensuring clubs can remain financially healthy has been a concern for the league in the past. But a major media deal combined with a slate of events that will have the world’s eyes on Australian women’s basketball may provide just the cushion needed for the league to bolster its foundations and thrive.

With four-time WNBL MVP Lauren Jackson coming out of retirement to play not just for the Opals, but also for the Southside Flyers, the FIBA World Cup taking place in Sydney and the WNBL season beginning just a few weeks later, an opportunity for serious growth is brewing. Also in their favor is the momentum built up from the 2021 Olympics (Basketball Australia reported their social channels grew by 124% over the Olympic season), and its proximity to the 2022 World Cup. A freshly re-designed marketing campaign and website, as well as easily accessible merchandise, including jerseys, can’t hurt, either. Especially as future long-term broadcast deals loom on the horizon, the upcoming months will be critical to increasing exposure of and engagement with the league and its players.

Speaking of the World Cup, earlier this year, FIBA announced that an agreement had been secured to distribute Cup games on ESPN. Six games will be available on ESPN2/U, with the remaining slate of matches available on ESPN+. Games will also be available on the FIBA YouTube Channel and Courtside 1891. As an extension of Basketball Australia’s Reconciliation Action Plan, which details a commitment to elevating Indigenous Australians in the sport and supporting racial equity, the Sydney World Cup event logo and court will feature designs from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists. Other events to celebrate Indigenous communities will populate the World Cup schedule, and an Indigenous Engagement Officer was added to the planning team.

Next, read:

  • ESPN’s M.A. Voepel checked in with the Phoenix Mercury and BG’s Heart & Sole Shoe Drive.
  • The Pick and Roll’s Hayley Wildes gives you the rundown of which players to look out for at the upcoming World Cup. ($, though a 7-day free trial is available)
  • For Sports Illustrated, Madison Williams takes you inside UConn’s Paige Bueckers’ first media appearance since tearing her ACL last month.
  • #SummerOfDawn continues, as the South Carolina head coach was announced to drive the pace car at the Southern 500 NASCAR Cup series playoffs. The State’s Jeremiah Holloway has more on Staley’s remarkable offseason.

Note: The first paragraph of this story was updated on Sept. 3 to clarify the geographic scope of the WNBL broadcasts.

Written by Isabel Rodrigues

Isabel Rodrigues (she/her) is a contributing editor for The Next from upstate New York. She occasionally covers 3x3 and labor in women's basketball.

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