In today’s sports environment, games aren’t just played on the court, ice or the field. They are also played virtually through video games, and through fantasy sports where people compete based on their favorite players’ statistical production.
Until recently, the WNBA has been behind the curve when it came to both its presence in video game and on fantasy sports sites. It wasn’t until last year when EA Sports created the WNBA as an option in NBA Live. And for each of the last two seasons, sports fans have been able to play one-day WNBA fantasy basketball through FanDuel, the league’s official partner.
“A lot of people have played fantasy games for the NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball in the past,” retired Indiana Fever star Tamika Catchings said in an interview with Swish Appeal last week. “Having the WNBA part of this family, of course, it increases viewership. About 60 percent of people that play fantasy are more likely to tune into the games as well.”
What Catchings said comes at a changing time in the fantasy sports landscape.
In May, the United States Supreme Court overturned a law banning sports gambling, allowing individual states to decide its legality. With sports gambling likely to be legalized in many states, companies like FanDuel are freer to promote their offerings. And with more people involved in fantasy sports, there will be more people watching games on television and online in an era of cord-cutting.
Fantasy WNBA basketball isn’t just there to attract new fans. It is also a way for die-hards to engage even further with the WNBA game. “WNBA fans have an opportunity to play fantasy and to be able to follow their favorite players and kinda have the same experience that has been allowed for a lot of the men’s sports in the past,” Catchings said.
The 2018 WNBA season has been headlined by public calls, from players like Washington Mystics forward Elena Delle Donne and Minnesota Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve, to increase coverage of their game.
But there is a “chicken and the egg” argument regarding the lack of WNBA coverage as well. Some believe there is just a lack of overall interest so there is little need for more coverage. On the other hand, Delle Donne and Reeve both believe that the lack of interest in the WNBA is coming from that lack of coverage. Without media mentions, it is hard for any sport to gain interest and grow a fan base.
The WNBA game deserves more interest and more coverage. To increase both, it is important that fans and the public have the same resources available to them on all things WNBA, just like it is for the NBA, NFL, NHL and Major League Baseball. Catchings believes that an increase in resources such as advanced analytics will increase the league’s transparency.
It would also help fantasy players pick better teams.
“I think that having all these different avenues like analytics draw more attention and viewership to the game,” Catchings stated. “As analytics [have] helped with interest on the men’s side, it will continue to increase and get better on the women’s side.”