Mark Cuban’s Advice to the WNBA: Create Events That You Can Sell
By Dorothy J. Gentry
Mark Cuban knows a thing or two about business.
And the billionaire entrepreneur, Shark Tank panelist and owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks believes he knows just what it will take to turn the WNBA around.
“You have to go find external revenue sources other than just the games themselves,” Cuban said when asked what the WNBA can do to grow the League and capitalize on one of its most successful seasons. “Create new events that you can sell.”
Cuban, speaking with a few reporters before Saturday’s Mavs home opener against the Minnesota Timberwolves, divulged he had a positive 1 ½ hour meeting with Dallas Wings star Skylar Diggins-Smith shortly after the season ended in which he discussed what the WNBA needs to do moving forward.
The meeting, which he initiated and which took place at the Mavs offices, came after Diggins-Smith – in an interview with Wealthsimple.com – brought up both the Mavs’ Harrison Barnes and Cuban in sharing her understandable concerns about the wage gap between the WNBA players and NBA players and the difference in how much of the league revenue players receive from each league.
“I’m the highest paid player on the Dallas Wings, and my salary is in the low six figures. [Harrison Barnes, the highest paid player on the Dallas Mavericks, made $24 million last season.] He’s definitely younger than me. Do you know his stats? Was he an All-Star? I mean, it doesn’t matter. But last year, I was First Team All-WNBA, which only goes to five players. I was also a WNBA All-Star for the third time,’ Diggins-Smith said in the article.
Said Cuban on Saturday night: “I met with Skylar Diggins-Smith and this is exactly what I told her. I said you’ve got to go out there and create new properties.
“You’re not going to all of a sudden double WNBA attendance. You’re not going to all of a sudden double the viewership so that you get a huge TV contract to save the day. But what you can do, because, with the women’s game it’s so much bigger, dramatically bigger outside the US, than in the US, there’s players that won’t play here because they can make more money overseas.
“So the opportunity is, and it’s part of the same opportunity for the men’s game as well, is to create your own World Cup and back out of the FIBA one, make that a source of revenue so that the players can earn more money.
“Have only your youngest players play in the Olympics so there’s a value to playing and creating a bigger game and having it owned by the WNBA.”
Cuban said he understands the conversations surrounding pay in the WNBA but made it clear that “the difference is just in total amount of revenue; it’s not a gender issues, it’s a revenue issue.
“It just so happens that if the women had greater revenue than the men, then they would make more money,” he said. “The challenge is when they talk about the percentages, it kind of avoids Business 101 topic which is there is a certain hurdle of fixed costs you have to overcome. If you make x amount of dollars and if your business makes x amount in sales but your costs are up here, you will have to pay lower commissions.
“We paid a lower percentage to the men until our revenue went up. Then when our revenue went up we were able to pay a higher percentage.”
Cuban went on to say if the WNBA can get its top line to grow significantly, “then there is more of that to share because you’re covering the fixed costs of teams and leagues. And that’s the difference and that’s the conversation I had with Skylar and she understood it. And I’m sure they all do.
“But it’s easy to say, hard to do.”
The WNBA and the NBA are both global brands but don’t have a lot of global products, Cuban said. “The EPL (Premiere League) creates all these tournaments of interest. If I was the WNBA, that is exactly what I would be doing. If it drives more in Turkey than it does in the United States, you have your tournament of champions with your WNBA champion and you sell the TV rights , globally, however the numbers drive it. Just follow the money.
“FIBA owns everything. There’s Euro Cup, Euro League, World Cup. FIBA owes them all,” Cuban said. “The biggest events in the world that have basketball the NBA doesn’t owe any of them.
“We don’t have tv rights, but we pay for the players and the risk,” Cuban continued. “Think about the NBA Summer League. It went from almost a throw-away event to something large and amazing. Everyone is there.
“You can do the same thing with the women. You can have a Summer League and other things. Create your own events.”