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WNBA vs NBA: Revenue Comparison

With annual salaries that can climb up to $50 million, it’s no secret that the NBA enjoys a substantial financial advantage, but what factors contribute to this discrepancy?

We’ll uncover all of the elements that contribute to this gap in revenue and discuss the potential future of both leagues.

Follow along as we unravel the complexities and shed light on the WNBA vs NBA revenue comparison.

As social media shapes the modern landscape, European players establish their dominance, and NIL deals bring new financial avenues to the NCAA, the basketball world is constantly expanding.

Amidst this expansion, both the NBA and WNBA have witnessed a surge in revenue, investment, and promotional efforts. Yet, despite these developments, a perplexing question remains: Why is there still such a massive disparity between the WNBA vs NBA?

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What Is The Total Revenue For The WNBA?

Basketball is one of the most popular sports in the world. It is one of the so-called “Big Four” sports in North America due to its enormous popularity.

However, basketball’s popularity isn’t evenly split between the men’s and women’s games. This difference in popularity can be seen in the revenues of the top men’s league, the NBA, and the top women’s league, the WNBA.

The NBA is the biggest and best basketball league in the world and rakes in billions of dollars in revenue every year.

Despite basketball’s popularity and the NBA’s wild success, the WNBA, the United State’s women’s basketball league, earns just a small fraction of what the NBA does every year.

This difference in total revenue is very significant.

It’s hard to get concrete WNBA revenue numbers, but most experts estimate that the WNBA raked in somewhere around $60 million per year between 2019-2022.

Even though we don’t know the exact revenue numbers for the WNBA, we do know the league’s owners and executives are expecting the WNBA to grow massively in the coming years. Per the most recent collective bargaining agreement, the WNBA targets 20% every season.

To put that in perspective, if revenue was actually $60 million in 2022, the WNBA wants $72 million in revenue in 2023 and $86.4 million in 2024.

Women’s sports are becoming more and more popular, and the WNBA is taking steps to produce a stronger product. There is more hype growing around the game, and this should lead to an increase in revenue in the near future.

NBA stadium

What Is The Total Revenue For The NBA?

The NBA makes much more money than the WNBA. Adam Silver revealed earlier this year that the NBA’s revenue for the 2021-22 season was $10 billion.

This was a record-high year for NBA revenue and came after two consecutive years of decreasing revenues. No doubt why the NBA is the top basketball league on earth and attracts players from across the globe.

Why Does The NBA Make More Than The WNBA?

One simple reason for NBA revenue being higher than the WNBA’s revenue is that the NBA is significantly more popular.

For context, the average nationally broadcast NBA game was viewed by 1.6 million people last season.

The most watched WNBA game ever was watched by around 1.2 million people.

Why the NBA is so much more popular is a way more complicated discussion involving a number of factors, including the fact that women were shunned for playing sports until very recently. Another less-sinister factor is just personal preferences.

Unfortunately, many view women’s basketball as not as spectacular as men’s, translating into less revenue and viewership.

What Factors Account For The Revenue Disparities Between The WNBA and NBA?

We’ve made clear that the overall NBA revenue is much bigger than the WNBA revenue.

Now, let’s take a look at the numbers in closer detail.

Here is a detailed comparison of the factors influencing the NBA and WNBA revenue differences.

Top Paid Player in NBA and WNBA

The Golden State Warriors’ Steph Curry is the highest-paid player in the NBA.

Curry signed a new 4-year veteran max extension worth 35% of the NBA’s salary cap (per the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement).

Practically speaking, this means Curry’s new contract is worth $215 million, with an average salary of $53,818,436 per season.

The WNBA equivalent of the NBA’s veteran max extension is a supermax contract worth $234,936.

Currently, there are three WNBA players on full supermax contracts. Diana Taurasi of the Phoenix Mercury, the Dallas Wings’ Arike Ogunbowale, and Seattle Storm’s Jewell Loyd are the three highest-paid WNBA players.

Average Salary & Wage Gap

So there’s definitely a significant gap between the NBA and WNBA’s highest-paid players, but what about average salaries? There’s also a huge wage gap here too.

The average NBA salary this season is $7.3 million. In comparison, the WNBA average salary was just $102,751 in 2022.

The NBA-WNBA wage gap is a hot topic of discussion and most recently made international attention after Brittney Griner was detained in Russia for substance possession charges.

Griner was going to Russia to play for UMMC Ekaterinburg, which is something she had done every year since 2014.

It’s incredibly common for WNBA players to play in foreign leagues during the WNBA offseason since they’re likely to be paid much more overseas than in the United States.

For example, UMMC Ekaterinburg paid Griner over $1 million per season.

This is over four times more than what she made playing for the Phoenix Mercury.

Other notable WNBA players who regularly play overseas are Las Vegas Aces guard Kelsey Plum, who has played for both Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray in Turkey, and New York Liberty star Breanna Stewart, who played for various teams in Turkey, China, and Russia.

Teams’ Worth

Because the NBA’s revenues are so much higher than the WNBA’s, NBA team values are also significantly higher.

Forbes values the average NBA at $2.86 billion. The Warriors are the NBA’s most valuable team, valued at $7 billion by Forbes.

The most recent NBA team to be sold was the Phoenix Suns for a whopping $4 billion.

The average WNBA team is valued at $43.75 million. The Seattle Storm is the most valuable WNBA team, with a valuation of $151 million.

The value of the entire WNBA is $1 billion, so there’s plenty of room for the WNBA to catch up to the NBA when it comes to team value.

The WNBA may never actually catch up to the NBA, but both leagues should be very happy that team valuations have been increasing regularly over the past ten years.

In just one year, NBA team values rose 15%.

It’s hard to say how much WNBA teams have increased in value, but some estimates suggest team values have quadrupled since 2021 thanks to a recent $75 million dollar sale of 15% of the league to various investors, including Nike.

Expansion is also on the table for both the NBA and WNBA, so team values are one thing we’re sure will continue to rise for both the NBA and WNBA.

Sponsorships

Sponsorship money is another area where the WNBA falls way behind the NBA. The value of all NBA sponsorships from the 2021-22 season was $1.6 billion.

The WNBA’s sponsorship money is relatively hard to find. There are no concrete reports about how much the league makes from its sponsorships, but the number of sponsorships has significantly increased over the years.

The WNBA now has 38 main sponsors, including Google, YouTube, and AT&T.

We can’t be sure of how much these 38 companies are paying the WNBA, but given what we know about the league’s other sources of income, it’s likely the WNBA makes around $10-30 million a year from sponsorships.

Merchandise

The NBA is a juggernaut in the sports merchandise industry. In 2022, the NBA’s revenues from merchandise alone were $1 billion.

This is tied for the second most North American sports leagues behind the NBA.

By contrast, the WNBA earns around $11 million per year from merchandise sales. This number is sure to grow in the coming years.

Seattle Storm CFO Tricia McLean told Fortune Magazine that the Storm used to sell $150,000 worth of merchandise before the pandemic.

Now, the team rakes in over $1 million from merchandise sales.

Average TV Ratings/Viewership

The NBA isn’t one of the “Big Four” leagues in North America for no reason. The league earned this status due to its popularity and huge TV numbers.

The average nationally broadcast NBA game captures an audience of 1.6 million people. Over 12 million people will tune in for big games like an NBA finals game.

The WNBA isn’t close to the NBA when it comes to TV ratings, but the league’s viewership numbers have been growing rapidly over the past few seasons.

Last year’s WNBA playoffs had an average viewership of 456,000. This was a 22% increase over the previous year’s number.

Viewership peaked in the semifinals between the Las Vegas Aces and Seattle Storm. Game three of that series was viewed by 1.4 million.

Who knows how many people would’ve tuned in if the 2022 WNBA Finals weren’t lined up against the NFL playoffs?

Ticket Price & Attendance

Ticket prices and attendance vary greatly depending on the city and stadium for both the NBA and WNBA.

An average NBA game will be attended by 17,184 people, while 5,679 people are the WNBA’s average attendance.

Ticket prices are probably the only category where the WNBA and NBA are close, but still, it’s not that close.

The average WNBA ticket price is $47. The Washington Mystics have the highest average ticket price coming in at $73 for an average ticket.

In the NBA, the average ticket costs $96.57, which is more than double the WNBA average ticket price.

It’s harder to find factual information about team-specific prices, but it’s generally agreed the Warriors have the most expensive ticket prices in the NBA.

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Why Is There Still A Big Gap Between the WNBA and NBA Revenues?

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Rowan Fisher-Shotton Sports Betting Journalist at GambleOntario

Rowan Fisher-Shotton

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The NBA vs WNBA revenue comparison boils down to one simple fact: men’s basketball is more popular than women’s basketball.

At the end of the day, viewership is the driving force behind most of the money made in both leagues, and so as long as the NBA generates more TV revenue and ticket sales, the NBA will continue to make much more money than the WNBA.

Truthfully, we may never completely eliminate this gap, but with superstars like Breanna Stewart, A’ja Wilson, and Sabrina Ionescu taking the WNBA by storm and the up-and-coming talents of Caitlin Clark and Angel Rease, women’s basketball appears to be on the up and up.

With continued support and investment, the discrepancy between WNBA vs NBA salaries may diminish, allowing for more equitable opportunities and financial prosperity in women’s basketball.

FAQs About WNBA vs NBA: Revenue Disparity

We’ve covered a lot of information in this analysis, but we know you might still have some questions about things we didn’t cover. Here are some more of the frequently asked questions about the NBA-WNBA revenue disparity.

WNBA players are entitled to 50% of the money made above the WNBA’s revenue target. The WNBA’s revenue target increases by 20% every season (e.g., if the 2022 revenue target was $60 million, the 2022 revenue target would be $72 million).

No, the NBA makes more than 16 times the amount of money the WNBA makes per year. In 2022, the NBA made $10 billion. It’s estimated that the WNBA made between $50-70 million that same year.

NBA profits vary from year to year. In 2022, the NBA’s revenue was $10 billion. NBA profits in 2022 were $2.7 billion.

There are multiple reasons the WNBA isn’t as popular as the NBA. Overall, women’s sports are less popular than men’s sports. Also, the WNBA is a much younger league than the NBA. The WNBA is 26 years old. The NBA is 77 years old.

Out of active players, Lebron James is the richest NBA player. He has an estimated net worth of $1 billion. If we include retired players, Michael Jordan is the richest NBA player, with an estimated net worth of $1.7 billion.

Diana Taurasi, Arike Ogunbowale, and Jewell Loyd are tied for who makes the most money in the WNBA annually. They each make $234,936 per year, the maximum salary allowed under the WNBA CBA.

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Facts checked by Eamon Doggett