WNBA President Donna Orender met with the media before Saturday's WNBA All-Star Game.
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Hi, everybody, how you doing today? This is a great day. I know you're working, but it's okay to smile.
Thanks for being here. We appreciate it on behalf of the WNBA. We're all glad to be here at the Mohegan Sun, I hope everybody is having as good a time as we are. I'd like to first thank Mitchell Etess, the president of the Mohegan Sun, and of course Paul Munick and Chris Sienko, they do such a great job here. It's a great place for the WNBA to have a team and it's a great place for our league to showcase the great talent and of course there's a lot to be said for this great team here in Connecticut. This weekend is obviously a great celebration for great women's basketball, and I've been asked to share some of the highlights of our business. This is nothing you've heard, all new, just for today.
Let me just say this. It is a real privilege for me to be sitting here as the president of the WNBA. It's a league I believe in passionately and with all my heart, and it's a business that I think has great strength and is growing every single day, and I'm going to give you today just some of the baseline fundamentals in terms of our business, because people ask us all the time, how are you doing and I'm going to tell you, we're doing great, we're doing great.
So, we've announced five new marketing partners already this year, and many of them are activating for the first time here at the All Star Game. We are particularly pleased with our relationship with AOL and for those of you who are AOL subscribers, if you go on the home page, sports home page for AOL, where they define sports and it goes, NFL, NBA our players are big AOL users, like Sue Bird. It says "WNBA." We think that's a great, great stake that AOL is taking and they are showing their confidence, not only in their viewership, in their fan base who uses AOL and also the WNBA in positioning us as the major league that we are.
How many of you went to the All Star Skills Challenge? It was a tremendous amount of fun and why that happened is because we're able to partner with Discovery Networks, Discovery Fit TV and Discovery Health, we will be airing a simulcast tomorrow of the WNBA All Star Skills Challenge, really featuring our platform of being fit, being smart and being yourself, and so we'll have nutritional tips and health tips that our players, who are incredibly engaging, can wrap around that show, and they will be airing on those two networks for the next several months.
On the local level, we should tell you that we are averaging over ten new sponsorships per team, and with that, including several of our teams, Houston, Minnesota, San Antonio, Seattle and Washington, have more than doubled their sponsorship revenue this year as compared to 2004. So on the local level we continue to grow.
On a content basis wherever I go people always say, you know, we really want to get more exposure to the WNBA and while we're grateful to our partners at ESPN and the whole Disney family at ABC, there's to doubt that we have an earnest desire to grow that exposure but to that end we are happy to announce today that from here on to the end of the year, we will have all of our remaining games webcasted on WNBA.com. That will bring our coverage to 65 games from now through the remainder of the season, which really gives us a tremendous expansion from the 13 that we had available during 2000 during 2004.
In addition, I don't know how many of you saw the release locally from the New York Liberty but they just announced that Madison Square Garden Network has added the remaining 13 games on the Liberty schedule to the Madison Square Garden schedule there for making every single Liberty game available on that network.
Really excited, obviously this is our ninth season and next year represents a tremendous milestone for us. We'll be celebrating our tenth anniversary and we are deep into celebrating what those celebrations will be and how we will communicate that to our constituents, how our players and sponsors will participate and who you we will engage the fans which is truly what the league is all about.
I can tell you I'm going to be pleased with the success of the league today, of course. I'm not going to be here telling you I wouldn't be but I am. All of us have traversed in business, and that's how it goes, there are ups and downs, but I get fan mail, fans who tell us usually what's right, other than the officiating, because no one is usually ever happy with the officiating. I think our officials are doing a great job this year, but I keep the fan letters and I carry them with me and they are affirming for all the people in the WNBA and at the team level, league level and the players why they are so important. I'll share in closing the letter. It came from the guy who recently came to a game in Sacramento.
"Dear Donna, I recently went to my first WNBA game and I have to tell you your athletes are so remarkable, they really opened my eyes to how truly right they all are and about what's right in sports. They totally understand who is the boss in sports and it's the fan. They gave me a whole new respect for your sport and the WNBA, and I look forward to returning."
So Robert, I'm grateful for his letter because it gets me through another week as we continue to grow, and I'd be happy to take your questions.
I was pleased to see that MSG decided to broadcast the next 13 games. Is that also happening in the other local teams area of coverage for the other teams?
Donna Orender: I think most of the other teams at this point, local coverage is set. I think Detroit up until this Madison Square Garden Network announcement had the most exposure, I think they had like 16. That said, we are actively engaged with some of our partners on a local level to expand coverage.
As a follow up question, will NBA TV now show more of the women's game now that the men's season is over?
Donna Orender: I think the NBA TV has a full schedule of WNBA games. You don't think so?
Donna Orender: All right. Well, let me ask my colleagues here. Let me find out more for you. You'd like more? I'll give them that message. (Smiling).
There's a bunch of incredible rookies out there right now, Tameka Johnson, Kara Braxton, Katie Feenstra, to name three, do you see this event growing to the point where you might be able to incorporate a rookie game?
Donna Orender: I actually do. I see this event growing as everything that we take on grows. It would be great. We do have unbelievable rookies this year. I have a personal affinity for the rookies, being a rookie myself, so I've spent a lot of time with them.
Yes, I'd like to see this weekend celebration grow in the amount of entertainment that we can offer and I think it would be a great idea. I think Ski thinks it would be a great idea, too. We want to have a bunch of old timers play the rookies, Coach Donovan, Nancy Lieberman, Ann Myers, it will be fun. Show those young whippersnappers a thing or two, or maybe not.
Can you talk a little about the improvement of diversity on the sidelines to match the players diversity?
Donna Orender: I'm sorry, diversity on the sidelines, in terms of our coaches?
Donna Orender: Well, I'm not sure exactly what you're referencing but recently an independent study was done by Richard Lapchick but the WNBA in terms of the research they came out number one in diversity both on the court and in the front office. I think we are pretty proud of our diversity. I think we are proactive and very much equal opportunity employers.
You talk about all of the positives and where the league is headed. In your first half a year, what do you see as your biggest challenge that you need to correct in order for it to get to where you want it to go?
Donna Orender: Everyone always asks me about challenges and I always tell them I see opportunities. I think the opportunity is that right now, we are in an environment that is more receptive than ever to expose and celebrate the great feats of women's athletes. I think our job is to help fill that natural interest that's going in the marketplace with these unbelievable personalities. We have true stars. We don't have to make them. We have Diana Taurasi, we have Sue Bird; people always connect with them when they meet them. They say, "They are great, how come I don't know about them?" So I rely on your interest and your column inches as well as our energy to try to bring that to our forefront, and electronically, I don't want to forget all of our electronic friends.
Are you working on developing a better relationship with Madison Avenue and WNBA?
Donna Orender: We are working on deepening our relationship with Madison Avenue.
I think what's happening in many of the sponsor related segments and businesses in general, that they are recognizing the value of the WNBA fan and audience, and as such, I think the greater we are getting tremendous receptivity in terms of all of the major categories. So I look forward to, as you can see, we are averaging ten new sponsors per team in the local market and we just announced five nationally, and I'll tell you there are probably a dozen more in the works.
So you'll find after nine years they are becoming more receptive?
Donna Orender: Absolutely. The world, the marketing and sales climate is evolving to meet where the WNBA's audience and values are, and so as that continues to happen, if you look at any kind of product development as an S curve, we are getting right there on the curve to get ready to ramp up and roll.
Do you have a plan, you said that you're looking to plan next year's celebrations for the ten year anniversary, do you already know where you want to hold the All Star Game for next year?
Donna Orender: I don't.
Do you have any cities
Donna Orender: There are cities who have expressed interest. I'm not sure if I should reveal their interests.
Can I tell? I can't tell them. There's many cities who have expressed interest, but we have not made a decision. I think we want to get through this weekend and then we'll figure it out.
Do you want to make a vote there, for Seattle? Do you want to weigh in for Seattle, is that what you're telling me? (Laughing).
Is Kansas City still a possibility with their new arena being built for getting a franchise?
Donna Orender: Kansas City is very much a possibility. We are in discussions with Kansas City. We think that they are terrific market. They are in a business cycle at an opportune time to bring in a new franchise such as the WNBA. Yes, very much ongoing discussions with Kansas City.
Since they are going to build the Atlantic Yards and the new Nets arena, maybe we'll have the Manhattan Knicks, so do you think we'll have a Brooklyn WNBA team?
Donna Orender: Maybe. Maybe. At this point in time, I would not foreclose any of our options.
I want to thank you all for being here. I beseech you, have a great time, it's a wonderful weekend. Thank you.