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Links: Ratings For Women's Basketball Increased In 2012 Olympics, But Impact On WNBA Still In Doubt

The WNBA's new promo featuring the 2012 U.S. women's basketball team.

In her list of top five reasons to watch the WNBA as it resumes regular season play today (7 pm EDT on NBA TV) after taking a break for the Olympics, Helen of the Women's Hoops Blog wrote that the number one reason to watch the WNBA is that, "You don’t have to travel to London to see Olympians live — they’re right in front of you."

If ever there was a time that you might think people would start tuning in to watch the WNBA, now seems like a pretty good one: after dominating the field in the 2012 London Olympics, casual basketball fans should at least be aware now that the WNBA features some of the best talent in the world if they weren't before.

And judging by the ratings during the women's run to their fifth straight gold medal, there was at least increased interest in watching them compared to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, according to a release by the WNBA.

The Women's Basketball Gold Medal game against France on NBC averaged 10.2 million viewers, up +73% versus the 2008 Women's Gold Medal game on NBC (5.9 million viewers). The three USA women's games on NBC averaged more than 10 million viewers.

The women's team also performed strong for NBC Sports Network. The five games on the network averaged 1.24 million viewers viewers per game, +26% higher than the team's average on USA Network in 2008.

The matter of whether those ratings would translate to increased interest in the WNBA is something that has already been discussed elsewhere, but there have been a few interesting perspectives on the matter put forward since the end of the Olympics as well that are worthy of consideration as the WNBA starts up again today.

We'll get back to strictly basketball links tomorrow, but for now a few more Olympic-related links.

  • Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post wrote after the women won gold that while progress may seem slow, women's sports have come far when placed in context: "This is how it happens: a steady drumbeat of success over so many years, wearing away at obstacles, pursuing a metal disc that says you have value because you won something..." Although she doesn't specifically mention the development of the WNBA, she suggests that each small Olympic victory over time has built up to the point of where we are now; following that logic, even if we don't see a huge boost immediately from the Olympics, the historic feat of this year's women's basketball team could help continue to wear away at obstacles. Read more >>>
  • Mark Purdy of the San Jose Mercury News had a front page story after the women won gold in the Olympics around the following historical thesis: "Every four years for three Olympic weeks, women are the biggest athletic attraction on American television. Then, for the other three years and 49 weeks, they fall almost completely off the radar." Looking at both the failure of women's professional soccer in the U.S. and the enthusiasm about basketball after 1996, Purdy doesn't see much reason for optimism this time around. Read more >>>
  • Alice Park of Time Magazine took a closer look at some of the factors that have prevented the WNBA from developing into, "...a robust league yet, as far as sponsorships and endorsements are concerned." Among them are reported differences on how men and women engage with sports and people's natural tendency to compare WNBA basketball to the much more established men's league. But Park did find some positive developments outside of ratings for the WNBA. Read more >>>
  • Peter Kogoy of The Australian reports on a much more negative development in WNBL, days after the Aussie Opals returned from London with a bronze medal, their fifth straight (not to mention a historic dunk): ABC, the major television network, announced drastic cuts to both women's basketball and women's soccer coverage yesterday. Games will be available online, but with year-by-year broadcast figures falling for both leagues, the decision was made to alter their approach. Read more >>>

So with the 2012 London Olympics concluded and the U.S. team bringing back five medals with them, what type of impact do you think this will have on women's basketball at large? And if not on ratings, what about the types of things discussed by Jenkins or Park: increased interest in playing or participation at higher levels of the sport?

Feel free to leave your thoughts and/or related links in the comments.