One main cause of the disproportionate revenue between the two leagues is viewership. According to Sports Business Journal, each NBA game has an average of 1.2 million viewers, while WNBA games have less than half that amount, resulting in a significant revenue gap. The other difference between the two leagues is the number of teams in them. There are only two teams in the WNBA: the Seattle Storm and the Tulsa Thunderbirds. This means that there is less competition in the WNBA, which leads to fewer fans attending games.
Another reason why NBA players make more money than WNBA players is because the owners of NBA teams can charge more for tickets and merchandise. They can also pay their players more since they have the ability to create more demand for their products and services. In addition, the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) does not have as much power over its members as the National Hockey League Players Association (NHLPA). For example, an owner could refuse to trade his player for fear that another team would offer him more money. This would allow the owner to keep his player instead of trading him like this would not be possible in the NHL.
Last but not least, the quality of play is different between the two leagues. While the WNBA is known for having more open games with less physical contact than men's basketball, this doesn't mean that it's easier to watch.
Because the women's league makes far less income and has a dramatically different pay model structure, WNBA players are woefully underpaid in comparison to NBA players. According to Forbes, the NBA pays its players around 50% of league income, whereas the WNBA pays its players less than 25% of league revenue. In addition, while top-tier NBA players can make well over $10 million per year, their WNBA counterparts make barely more than $500,000.
The main reason for this disparity is that while the NBA operates with a 31-team roster limit, the WNBA allows each team to have only five players on the active list at any given time. The other 20 or so players on the inactive list will be called up in case of injury or rest during games. Teams can have a maximum of seven players who are eligible to play (including coaches) at any one time.
This means that if a WNBA player wants to make serious money, she needs to go overseas. Many players are now making millions of dollars after playing in Russia or China instead of America.
Another factor is that the WNBA doesn't have any media rights contract like the NBA has. This means that they don't get any television money from ESPN, NBC, or TNT like their male counterparts do. Instead, they rely on ticket sales, merchandise, and corporate partnerships for most of their revenue.
As previously noted, the WNBA generates an average of $60 million in income every year. Ticket sales account for $50 million, or more than 83 percent of the WNBA's overall revenue. When compared to the NBA, the WNBA generates a far bigger portion of its revenue from ticket sales. In addition, media rights fees account for another $5 million or so of the league's income.
The WNBA has one of the more flexible business models in sports. It sets its own prices and doesn't have to share its revenue with its players. The WNBA also manages its own marketing campaigns and doesn't need to rely on its partners for that service.
In 2010, the WNBA took in approximately $100 million in revenue. This makes the WNBA the most profitable women's professional basketball league in the world.
In the 2017-18 NBA season, players received around half of the league's income. WNBA players, on the other hand, received less than a fourth of the league's earnings. The remaining quarter goes to the owners of the other 24 teams.
The disparity between men's and women's basketball has long been a concern for equality advocates. Men's Basketball is by far and away the more popular and profitable version of the game, while the WNBA has had to fight for funding and attention from day one.
When the WNBA was first formed in 1996, each team was given $250,000 to spend on player salaries. This amount increased to $275 million per team in 1997 and then to $280 million in 1998. In 2001, the league's salary cap was raised to $3.5 million per team.
Teams can have only so many players making $100,000 or more at any one time, so most make do with fewer high-paid stars and more role players. The Los Angeles Sparks, for example, had only three players make $100,000 or more in 2016. By comparison, the Toronto Raptors had four such players - all of them men - even though they made it to the Eastern Conference Finals that year.