Women's National Basketball Association
With Caitlin Clark on the way, Indiana Fever set to have 36 games on national TV
Women's National Basketball Association

With Caitlin Clark on the way, Indiana Fever set to have 36 games on national TV

Updated Apr. 10, 2024 7:35 p.m. ET

Call it the Caitlin Clark effect.

The WNBA will show 36 of the Indiana Fever's 40 games on its national broadcast and streaming partners, starting with the season opener at Connecticut on May 14. Last season, the Fever had only 22 of their games shown nationally.

The Fever, who are expected to take Clark first in the WNBA draft on Monday, will appear eight times across ABC, ESPN and ESPN2, as well as eight times on ION and twice on CBS. In addition, the Fever will be highlighted 13 times on NBA TV, four times on Prime Video and once on CBS Sports Network.

Clark helped the NCAA land record TV ratings, including 18.9 million for Iowa's NCAA title game defeat to South Carolina.


"With the energy and excitement already generated by what we anticipate will be a star-studded rookie class, and on the heels of a 2023 season that featured one of the greatest MVP races in WNBA history and our most-watched regular season in over two decades, the WNBA's broadcast and streaming partners are offering a huge national platform that will showcase the league's superstars, rising stars, rivalries and a newly reconfigured WNBA Commissioner's Cup," WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said.

The WNBA just had its most-watched season in 21 years, averaging 462,000 viewers per game across ABC, ESPN and CBS. The league also had its most-watched Finals in 20 years, which featured Las Vegas and New York. It was up 36% from the previous season. The league has its TV deal expiring at the end of next year and that could lead to a massive new contract for the WNBA.

Is Caitlin Clark the future of the WNBA? | The Herd

Besides the excitement around Indiana and Clark, the league is showcasing two-time defending champion Las Vegas. The Aces are looking to become the first team to win three titles in a row since Houston took the first four titles from 1997-2000. The Aces will make the second-most appearances on national TV with 35.

New York, which lost to Las Vegas in the Finals, is third with 31 appearances.

As the rest of the league prepares for the arrival of Clark, longtime Fever fans, like 61-year-old former hoops player John Meinen, can’t hide their excitement over seeing the potential of a game-changing player suddenly making the Fever relevant again after a seven-year playoff drought.

"She's Bob Cousy meets Steph Curry. I mean there just hasn't been anyone, certainly in the women's game, who plays the way she does," Meinen said. "I don't know her, I've never met her, but she seems like a very nice person. The other piece of it is she's got a little Taylor Swift in her because girls just look up to her."

He's not alone.

Fever guard Erica Wheeler told social media fans Clark was the real deal after attending one Iowa game in February 2023. Another Fever guard, Grace Berger already knows Clark's scouting report after chasing her around Big Ten courts for three seasons.

Neither had any idea back then, though, that the Fever would win a second straight draft lottery that would allow them to team up with the 2023 unanimous rookie of the year Aliyah Boston and the greatest scorer in Division I history.

This young, star-studded combination suddenly makes last season's 13-win team a must-watch team, a title Indiana last held during Tamika Catchings' final season in 2016.

So fans in Indianapolis and around the Hoosier State are focused on how quickly Indiana can rise in the standings and become a legitimate contender.

"I think she's in the right situation here," Meinen said. "Indiana is all about basketball, they're going to embrace her. They have a good young core. I think the future's very, very bright for this team."

[Further reading: 2024 WNBA odds: Will Caitlin Clark transform the Indiana Fever?]

While the Fever have declined to release ticket sales or merchandising information — or discuss expectations for Clark on the court — because she is not yet officially on the team's roster, that has not stopped other teams from promoting their matchups against Clark.

Two-time defending WNBA champion Las Vegas already has announced the Indiana game on July 2 will be played at T-Mobile Arena, which seats about 6,000 more fans than its traditional home venue.

The Phoenix Mercury also have dubbed the June 30 date against the Fever as "The GOAT vs. The Rook," capitalizing on a seemingly thinly veiled rivalry between Diana Taurasi and Clark.

"Reality is coming," Taurasi recently said on ESPN. "You look superhuman playing against some 18-year-olds, but you're going to come play with some grown women that have been playing professional basketball for a long time."

How quickly and smoothly Clark adapts to bigger, stronger, more experienced opponents is a serious concern.

While most evaluators believe Clark's shooting and passing skills will travel to the WNBA, there are questions about her defense and how the 6-foot, 155-pound point guard will deal with established stars unlikely to give the newcomer the red-carpet treatment.

She'll also have only a short break between the end of a demanding 39-game schedule that included becoming the focal point of every opposing defense and a highly publicized record-breaking scoring quest, and the mid-May start of a 40-game WNBA schedule. Playing on the U.S. Olympic Team also remains a possibility, too.

"I know what’s next is soon," Clark said after losing Sunday’s NCAA championship game, which Meinen watched on his phone just before the NBA’s Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat tipped off in Indy.

Life certainly is coming at Clark quickly.

Reporting by The Associated Press.


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