October 21, 2022 

The Morning Post-Up, Vol. 5 —  WNBA quietly inks TV deal with Swedish broadcaster C More Entertainment

Plus: EuroLeague, EuroCup groups set

Happy Friday! Welcome to The Morning Post Up, a twice-weekly newsletter from The Next. On September 29, an unassuming briefing in SportsBusiness was published. In just two lines of text, it confirmed that a Swedish broadcast company had acquired media rights to the WNBA. Details about the deal shared with The Next revealed that the broadcaster, C More Entertainment, is now able to air 16–18 regular season games and 9–14 playoff games, including all of the Finals. C More also acquired rights to show the All-Star Game, as well as to use WNBA “content reels” and highlights in its programming.

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Beginning in 2023, viewers in Sweden will be able to access the WNBA on the free-to-air channel TV12, as well as paid channels Sportkanalen, Sjuan and the C More app. Video-on-demand options are also expected to be available. No indication was given on whether WNBA League Pass would continue to be accessible in Sweden, though it is likely to remain available.

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“The NBA and WNBA are amongst the highest quality that sports can produce, both in terms of performance on the court and the production,” said Johan Cederqvist, Head of Pay Channels and Rights for Telia Company, which includes TV4 and C More. “With the NBA now complimented by the WNBA for the first time, fans will be able to enjoy the best of both leagues for years to come.”

The WNBA did not offer comment to The Next about the deal at the time of publication.

Amanda Zahui is one of Sweden’s most decorated and recognizable basketball players, and has represented Sweden on the international stage as a member of its national team. Zahui has played in the WNBA since 2016, first with the New York Liberty before moving to the Los Angeles Sparks, and has her sights on returning in 2023. Zahui spoke with The Next about bringing the WNBA to her home country.

“I was ecstatic about [the deal],” Zahui told The Next. “You don’t really see the W in Sweden. So especially being a player, that’s really big.”

Outside of conversations with fellow players and friends about the possibility of bringing the WNBA to Sweden, Zahui was not informed of the deal prior to meeting with The Next. A league source confirmed to The Next that an announcement of the deal, which also included a rights renewal for the NBA, was made on local channels at the end of September.

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Connecticut Sun center Jonquel Jones (35) shoots as New York Liberty center Amanda Zahui B.(17) defends during a game between the New York Liberty and the Connecticut Sun at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. on Aug. 01, 2018. (Photo Credit: Chris Poss)

“I grew up watching the EuroLeague, when Sylvia Fowles and Seimone Augustus and Becky Hammon and everyone went to Russia to play or when they played in Turkey,” Zahui said. “But I think it will be fun for the newer generation to actually see women play on the level that we do [in the WNBA] on TV.”

Zahui also spoke to how the deal may ease the difficulty of accessing WNBA games across a six-plus hour time difference.

“My mom has caught every single game since I went to school,” she said. “She goes to bed early, sets her alarm, wake up, make a cup of tea and then watch the game. My best friend does the same thing.”

“My younger cousins have the League Pass, so they they watch it if they up during the summer … but I think everyone are not, aware of the League Pass in Sweden,” she added. Zahui noted that she hopes increased access to the WNBA will bring in viewers who might not have had the means to purchase League Pass.

C More is no stranger to airing American sports leagues. Since 2017, the broadcaster has aired a plethora of regular season and playoff NBA games across its pay and free-to-air channels. On Sept. 22, just days ahead of the WNBA deal, TV4 Media closed a deal with the NFL that will bring 130 games to viewers in Sweden and Finland. The broadcaster’s agreement with the WNBA, however, is its first with a major U.S. women’s league.

Zahui also spoke to the support women’s basketball has found in Sweden through the national team. “When it comes to basketball in Sweden and the national team, a lot of people actually traveled to come see us play,” she said. “And when they can, they watched it on TV and it’s been a great response from it.”

Amanda Zahui (17) boxes out a Croatian player. Another pair of Swedish and Croatian players try to box each other out at the left of the image.
Amanda Zahui (17, Sweden) boxes out during a 2019 EuroBasket qualifying match between Sweden and Croatia at Sportska Dvorana Trnsko in Zagreb, Croatia on Nov. 11, 2017. (Photo courtesy of FIBA)

“[The deal for TV coverage] also proves that we are moving towards the right direction as far as putting women out there,” Zahui said. “I think it’s really beautiful, that we actually acknowledge women and and the hard work that we put in … I don’t know how many people have asked me like, ‘When are you playing? Are they showing it on TV?’ So I know this is going to be big for the basketball community in Sweden.”

Having gone through the Swedish club system herself, Zahui has remained connected to the Swedish basketball community. She described receiving messages and photos from coaches and parents about watch parties for the national team and spoke about what bringing more professional level women’s basketball to Sweden would mean.

“I have this vivid memory of sitting on the floor, my dad and my mom was sitting on the couch… and this game came on, the team had like, white and red stripes on it right. Now I know that was Spartak Moscow, and [Pokey Chatman] was the head coach,” she explained. “So it was like Candice Dupree, Lauren Jackson, Sue Bird, Becky Hammon, Diana Taurasi, Sylvia Fowles … they were running out for the introduction and be lined up. And I was like, ‘What the hell are we watching?’ And my dad was like, ‘This is EuroLeague, but the women’s side.’”

“They zoomed in on Sylvia Fowles and I couldn’t say her name to save my life. So we just call her Flower at home, like that was her name … so every time the tall Black American flower was playing, I was watching.”

Amanda Zahui (1, Fenerbahce) shoots while three Spar Girona players defend or go for the rebound.
Amanda Zahui (1, Fenerbahce) shoots during a EuroLeague regular season game between Spar Girona and Fenerbahce at Pavelló Girona-Fontajau in Girona, Spain on Oct. 20, 2021. (Photo courtesy of FIBA)

“I was just so intrigued that all of these players were so freaking good… and then they started talking about like the WNBA and I was like, I have no idea what this is, but I’m going to play.”

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Combined with broadcasts of EuroLeague, which continue to be available through Nordic Entertainment’s V Sport, the opportunities to view women’s basketball in Sweden are only increasing. Going beyond increased opportunities for families of players to tune in, the chances a potential new player will come across the WNBA and decide to pick up the sport for themselves are much higher.

For Zahui, there was one last element that made the news special. “For my little nieces, they can’t get up at 4 a.m.,” she said. “I’m also their god mom, so for them to watch like their god mom play on TV when I play in America … it will make me feel so happy.”

With the 2022–23 off-season just beginning, whether the WNBA will continue to pursue other international streaming deals has yet to be seen. WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert recently spoke to Yahoo Finance about the state of the league and bringing the WNBA to global markets.

“I’ve … really admired what the NBA has done through their global games platform and how they turn these players into global stars,” Engelbert said. “Players go overseas, and they’re well known, and they’re household names beyond the United States. So we’ve announced a preseason game in Canada as first step.”

In addition, mere weeks ahead of the WNBA announcement, the Swedish Basketball Federation announced the creation of Basket TV, a new platform in partnership with Solidsport which aims to bring together all of Swedish basketball into one streaming platform. The momentum around the sport paired with its long history and vocal supporters like Zahui, only bodes well for the WNBA’s success in the country come 2023.

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Los Angeles Sparks guard Brittney Sykes (15) and Los Angeles Sparks forward Amanda Zahui B.(1) during a game between the Los Angeles Sparks and the Connecticut Sun at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. on Aug. 26, 2021. (Photo Credit: Chris Poss)

NCAA Roundup

Injuries and Roster Updates

  • Vanderbilt: Kaylon Smith announced that she had suffered an Achilles rupture which will cause her to miss the 2022–23 season. She is the team’s third starter to go down with a major injury; Jordyn Cambridge announced a similar Achilles injury in late August, while Iyana Moore suffered an ACL tear in late September.

On the block

Next up tournaments to keep your eye on

  • FIBA Women’s Melanesian Cup, Suva, Fiji. Oct. 26–28 (Group Phase), Oct. 29–30 (Knockout). Pacific/Fiji Time, 16 hours ahead of ET. Schedule can be found here, streaming for free at YouTube.com/c/FIBA. Fiji, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, and Solomon Islands will play for two spots in the 2023 Pacific Games. The Pacific Games are the main qualifier for the 2023 Asia Cup Pre-Qualifier.
  • WNBL Pre-Season Games, Oct. 22–23 ahead of Nov. 2 season opener.
    • Bendigo Spirit — Oct. 22 vs Southside Flyers
    • Perth Lynx — Oct. 22, 23 vs Adelaide Lightning
    • Streaming options unknown or unavailable (sigh)

Dish and swish

Recent results to know

SuperCup Women. Bourges, France — Defending EuroCup champions Tango Bourges prevailed over defending EuroLeague winners Sopron Basket, 65–44. This marks just the second time in the game’s history that the EuroCup team has won the match. Kayla Alexander was named MVP of the game, after notching 20 points and 11 rebounds to lead Bourges in the win. Per FIBA, this is the first time a French club has won the SuperCup. The full game is available to stream on the EuroLeague YouTube channel.

EuroLeague, EuroCup Qualifiers — The 2022–23 EuroLeague and EuroCup fields are set, following the conclusion of the qualifying rounds. The regular season for both leagues will begin next Wednesday, Oct. 26. The Next’s Antonio Losada has the latest on the road to EuroLeague, with more on the way Saturday, so keep an eye out!

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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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