Games starring Caitlin Clark have broken WNBA viewership records for 6 TV networks this season

It's not just television ratings that Clark's presence is sending through the roof. She's filling arenas, too.
Fever Sparks Basketball
Posted at 3:25 PM, Jun 20, 2024

From breaking the all-time college basketball scoring record to drawing the largest women's basketball regular-season television audience of the past 25 years, there's no denying the indelible impact Caitlin Clark had on college basketball. Now, after being drafted first overall by the Indiana Fever in this year's WNBA draft, the Caitlin Clark effect is being felt at the professional level.

CBS announced this week that Sunday's matchup between the Indiana Fever and Chicago Sky garnered an average of 2.25 million viewers, making it the most-watched WNBA game across any television network in the past 23 years. According to Front Office Sports, that means six networks have now broken their WNBA single-game viewership records this season, and each game that did it had one thing in common: Clark's Fever were playing.

Here's how the numbers stack up (by average number of viewers).

  1. Fever v. Sky (CBS) — 2.25 million
  2. Fever at Sun (ESPN 2) — 2.10 million
  3. Fever at Liberty (ABC) — 1.70 million
  4. Fever v. Sun (ESPN) — 1.56 million
  5. Fever at Mystics (ION) — 1.02 million
  6. Fever at Liberty (NBA TV) — 430,000

Related Story: WNBA sets attendance and viewership records to begin 2024 season

But it's not just television ratings that Clark's presence is sending through the roof. She's filling arenas, too.

The Indiana Fever drew just over 81,000 fans to watch them play at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis over the course of 20 home games last season, according to data from Across the Timeline. It marked the second-lowest attendance in the entire WNBA and was one of the worst seasons for ticket sales in franchise history.

This season, however, Fever home attendance has already surpassed 82,000 — and they did it in just five games.

"I'm just grateful for, you know, obviously the support, the excitement," Clark said of the increased popularity of the WNBA. "I think, you know, this is what the league and the players in this league have deserved for a really long time."

She's part of a star rookie class that includes big names like Angel Reese, Kamilla Cardoso and Cameron Brink — all who share credit in the unprecedented support for women's basketball as a whole.

Related Story: Angel Reese says WNBA popularity is about more than just Caitlin Clark: 'It's because of me too'

"I don't necessarily think that we're anything special," Brink said earlier this year. "I think we're really good players, and I do think we're — if you look at other draft classes, we're a really strong class — but I think it's just been time, and the women before us."

It's a meteoric rise that WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said is not just about interest, but money.

"I would've said three years ago maybe we weren't ready for this moment, but that's why we raised that capital," Engelbert said in an interview with ESPN. "We came off the pandemic year, which was tough for us because that was a pretty existential time for this league to either survive or go away, and we survived and now we're thriving."

Related Story: WNBA star Cameron Brink shares emotional message after tearing ACL

Thanks to the increased attention and investment, Engelbert announced in May that the WNBA would commit $50 million to provide full-time charter flights to all teams over the next two seasons, ending a longstanding frowned-upon tradition of players flying commercial. She has also said she hopes to expand the league by four additional teams before the 2028 season.

Scripps Sports is — for a second season — broadcasting WNBA games every Friday night on ION.

Tune in this Friday, June 21, to watch Caitlin Clark and the Indiana Fever take on Rhyne Howard and the Atlanta Dream at 7:30 p.m. ET. Or catch the Connecticut Sun as they face off against the defending champion Las Vegas Aces at 10 p.m. ET.

ION’s 14-week WNBA schedule is available to TV and streaming viewers nationwide and includes 40+ national, regional, or local games that will be broadcast through Sept. 13.

Click here to view the full upcoming schedule for WNBA on ION.

ION is a subsidiary of Scripps News' parent company, E.W. Scripps.