WNBA Playoff Format Overhaul Helps League Draw More Viewers and Attendees

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - OCTOBER 20: Seimone Augustus
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - OCTOBER 20: Seimone Augustus /

The WNBA published numbers today that highlight the success it sees in its 2017 playoffs. The league posted gains in attendance, viewership, merchandise sales and social media activity.

One of the biggest reasons for the increased excitement in this years’ post season is the bold move by the league in January 2016 to reimagine the WNBA playoff tournament.  They added multiple single-elimination rounds, ended seeding by conference and reseeded teams after each round.  Doing so created urgency in the early rounds.  People wanted to see and talk about whether a 3rd or 4th seed’s season would go down with a thud (as it did for New York and Connecticut).  People wanted to see Diana Taurasi perform her magic.  So there was lots to watch and debate.

The first and second-seeded teams have an earned but decided advantage to get to the championship round. Right now, that means Minnesota and Los Angeles.  These two teams have four of the past five league MVPs.  You get games with big runs, big crowds and shots like this that you would think were miracles if they weren’t attempted by Maya Moore.

The model tries to save the best games for last.  Looks like that happened this year and creates the inevitable conversations about whether any team can take one of the first or second-seed slots next season.  You can see why the league is happy about its post season.