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WNBA turns to Twitter to increase viewership

By - Jun 20, 2017

By Simran Dave/For The Sporting Nation

No TV? No problem. This year, fans can witness rebounds by Tina Charles, assists from Sue Bird and records set by Diana Taurasi just by logging into Twitter.
The Women’s National Basketball Association and Twitter announced a “multiyear streaming deal that will bring live WNBA games to Twitter…” according to a statement issued by the league last month.
It’s a huge step for a league that is trying to drive up interest in women’s basketball and its players. Vince Kozar, the vice president of operations for the Phoenix Mercury, said the live streams help promote awareness.
The tangible thing it does is that it gets us in front of more people, and awareness of our product is most important,” Kozar said. “We have a lot of faith in the state of our product right now…”
Awareness is key for the WNBA, especially in cities with saturated sports markets. Kozar said Phoenix is one of those crowded markets, so the exposure that the league gets from live streams on Twitter is that much more important.
“In Phoenix, we’re in a crowded market with four major pro-sports teams along with the Rattlers, who do great, and some major universities,” said Kozar. “Anything we can do to get ourselves out in front of more people locally or nationally is really good for our brand.”
There are many preconceptions that sports fans have about the WNBA, but Kozar said that when people come out to games, there’s a decent retention rate.
“Whatever preconceptions they have about the WNBA, when they see it and experience it for the first time, we know we have a high rate of people staying around because of the quality of our product and, in our case, the stars we have on our roster,” Kozar said.
Players, too, are excited about the deal. New York Liberty center Tina Charles said she believes the deal will help connect with the fans.
I think it’s great and that it’s a good way to reach our fan base domestically and internationally,” Charles said. “We know we have a great following, and I’m happy that the WNBA sees that.”
The first WNBA game streamed on Twitter garnered over one million viewers and was a clear success. Los Angeles Sparks guard Candace Parker said that the league is noticing that more people are spending time on social media and hopes the streams will increase viewership.

The Sparks face the Connecticut Sun in the next game on Twitter June 27.
For the first game on Twitter to have one million viewers, that speaks volumes to where the world is moving to,” Parker said. “For the WNBA to see that that’s where the world is going and to be able to evolve with that, I think it will definitely improve our viewership.”
The WNBA joins other leagues, like the NFL, that also have live stream deals with Twitter to increase viewership and engagement. Kozar said the importance of the league joining other major sports on Twitter is a big deal and a sign that interest in women’s basketball exists already.
It says a platform like Twitter sees value in our product,” Kozar said. “They wouldn’t put it on there if they didn’t think there wasn’t a level of interest there or they didn’t think that content was worthwhile.”
The deal makes women’s basketball the first professional women’s sport to be live streamed on Twitter. In the statement made by the WNBA, president Lisa Borders said the league is excited to expand its reach to a larger audience through Twitter.
“We are thrilled to bring live WNBA games to Twitter, which will allow us to further showcase our league to a global audience,” said Borders. 
In the same statement issued by the WNBA, Anthony Noto, the chief operating officer for Twitter, said the live streams will also be paired with real-time conversation so that fans can interact while watching the game.

“The growing women's basketball fanbase will be able to turn to Twitter to watch free games side by side with the real-time conversation,” Noto said.

The games, paired with fan interaction on Twitter, will give the WNBA an extended reach and the awareness that Kozar prioritizes.
“We play a winning brand of basketball,” Kozar said. “If people see it nationally, they’re going to want to watch on Twitter or ESPN2, and experience our product.” 

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