Sports

WNBA Raises $75M in Hope to Improve Business Model

The WNBA has raised $75 million from more than two dozen investors in an effort to revamp its business model as players call for expansionhigher wages and better benefits.

Funding includes investments from Nike, Condoleezza Rice, Laurene Powell Jobs, Pau Gasol, NBA and WNBA team owners, and other sports and business figures.

“We will go a long way in transforming the league and giving us an economic model worthy of the players on the court,” WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said in an interview.

This is the first time the WNBA has raised money from investors. The league, founded by the NBA in 1996, held its first season in 1997. Financial struggles were constant and the disparity was significant in revenue, media attention, and popularity. Players’ attention distinguishes the women’s league from the NBA. The WNBA is betting that with the right investments it can generate enough interest among players to create a sustainable business model.

“Part of it is exposure,” Engelbert said. “It’s like pushing a rock up a hill.”

The WNBA is currently owned by half of the 30 NBA teams and half by the 12 WNBA teams. Ownership of both parties will be diluted as part of the agreement. Engelbert declined to disclose the size of the stakes new investors are taking in the company, the deal’s value or the league’s annual revenue.

The federation currently has no plans to raise more money but will consider doing so if it is “successful with deploying this funding for sustainable growth over a few years,” Engelbert said.

The league is open to ideas from the players union on how to use the new money, she added, but it plans to prioritize marketing and improving its digital products, including its website. web, apps, and tournament tickets, allowing fans to watch games that are out-of-market and not shown on national television.

Revenue from these efforts can then be used to fund key requests from players, such as charter flights, Engelbert said. Unlike in the NBA, where team members travel on private flights, WNBA players fly commercial. It has long been a sore point for players; on Tuesday, Elizabeth Cambage, a four-time All-Star, wrote on Twitter about having to “pay her own way” to upgrade her seat on flights to games.

When asked about Cambage’s Twitter post, Engelbert said: “People get emotional. People tweet everything. We all want the best travel conditions for our players. But the reason why it’s there for the men’s tournament is because they get these big valuations. They acquire media rights to their property. “

WNBA started fundraising in January 2020, after they signed a new contract collective labor agreement with its players, although the most recent fundraiser was scrapped by the coronavirus pandemic. (The goal shifts to “make sure we survive,” Engelbert said.) As the year nears 2021, the league begins to see “some growth” in sponsorship revenue and engagement. on social media – and start trying again.

Capital-rich investors are increasingly pouring money into sports teams and leagues, from which they have to look to outside funds to avoid damage from the pandemic. The streaming war has created new lust for sports rights as services look for distinctive ways to fight for eyeballs. A wave of state legalization of sports betting has created a billion dollar industry.

The new WNBA support could pave the way for any number of investments, including sports betting and virtual experience online, Engelbert said. Top of the priority list: “We need more fans,” she said.

Engelbert said the fan base is focused on youth and women, but the league’s digital strategy to connect with that group has fallen short. Last year, the WNBA signed a multi-year deal with Google that helps fund the regular broadcast of 25 games on ABC and ESPN. It also signed many years Online Trading with Amazon Prime and has been streaming the game on Twitter for the past five seasons. But the league, which hosts the season throughout the summer, is competing with other sports that have increasingly featured TV shows, such as NBA knockouts and Major League Baseball.

Engelbert said she wants to “market players to household names” both in the US and abroad. That could help generate revenue to boost player wages, which, like charter flights, have long been a source of friction.

The minimum player salary for the 2022 season is around $60,000 and the maximum is $228,094, with a team salary cap of just under $1.4 million. With only 12 spots on the roster each of the 12 teams in the league, it is difficult for even talented players to find a place in the league. But like players call for expansionwith fans eyeing Oakland, Calif. and Toronto for new teams, Engelbert has insisted that the league must increase revenue before it can expand.

Other investors include Michael Dell, founder of Dell Inc., and his wife, Susan; Joe and Clara Tsai, owners of WNBA’s Liberty and NBA’s Nets; and Swin Cash, executive vice president of basketball for the NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans.

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/03/sports/basketball/wnba-capital-raise-investors.html WNBA Raises $75M in Hope to Improve Business Model

Fry Electronics Team

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