The IX: Basketball Wednesday with Howard Megdal, December 4, 2019

Why TV matters — Arella Guirantes interview — Must-click women's basketball links

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Sometimes, when I want to make myself mad, I conduct a thought exercise.

I imagine how it would have gone if ESPN had decided, years ago, to be all-in on televising women’s basketball the way it has gone all in on, for instance, NBA Summer League.

I wonder what would have happened to women’s basketball if it had the boost the Atlanta Braves and Chicago Cubs had, playing all the time on a cable TV audience on WGN and TBS. Or the Cardinals, decades before, with the radio signal of KMOX.

The first two teams saw spikes in fandom that carry on to this day. The Cardinals, decades later, actually tracked and documented internally a KMOX Effect, that measured the reverberations through the generations what it meant to have their games so widely distributed.

I present these examples not for mere conversation, but to provide context for things like Lindsay Gibbs’ frustration, along with many other people, about how a weekend of women’s college basketball was largely left to the extremely motivated to watch. Nothing on cable TV. Nothing on broadcast TV. Streaming only.

Arella Guirantes, the Rutgers star who joined me for a fun, wide-ranging discussion in Five at The IX, led her Scarlet Knights to the Junkaroo Jam title. Friends and family didn’t get to watch, for the most part, let alone a country that deserves to discover her developing, pro-potential game.

My big concern isn’t that women’s basketball isn’t, can’t or won’t grow. But as all of our entertainment options split apart, again and again, audiences divided and diverted, the opportunity to elevate the game by putting it in the easiest possible places to view it are growing fewer and further between.

The ratings, when the WNBA is on ABC, are higher than when the WNBA is on ESPN. Ditto, ESPN over ESPN2.

These things matter. Cheryl Reeve gets it.

And every time men’s basketball is amplified many times that of women’s basketball, what’s already a constant gap only grows larger. And never forget it, when you hear folks preaching about the gap in revenue, or attendance, focused solely on outcomes.

So make your voices heard. Make it impossible for networks to ignore you.

It matters.

This Week in Women’s Basketball

Excellent Dorothy Gentry story on Camille Little.

More NCAA rule silliness, this time in retro form!

Michelle Smith on Pac-12 impact freshmen.

Kelsey Trainor looks at whether the gap in TV coverage violates Title IX.

Steve Gress on what’s going right for Oregon State.

Derek Fisher gives his first public comments since the end of the 2019 season.

Maryland-NC State is almost here, and Ava Wallace gets you ready.

The Athletic has a UConn writer!

Taylor Robertson’s shot is such a thing of beauty.

Terrific Mike Anthony on Megan Walker.

Geno is real with Alexa Philippou on his recruiting failures.

Tweet of the week

Five at The IX: Arella Guirantes, Rutgers

I had this wide-ranging discussion by phone. It cuts out a few times, apologies, but there’s a ton of insight here from Arella. Enjoy!

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By Stephanie Livaudais,
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal High Post Hoops
Thursdays: Golf
By Carly Grenfell,
Fridays: Hockey
By: Erica Ayala, @ELindsay08 NWHL Broadcaster

Written by Howard Megdal

Howard is the founder of The Next and editor-in-chief.