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American Basketball League (1996–1998) on television

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The American Basketball League was the first independent professional basketball league for women in the United States. The ABL lasted two full seasons: 1996–97 and 1997–98. On December 22, 1998; with almost no warning, the ABL declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy and suspended operations. Each team had played between 12 and 15 games of the 1998–99 season.

Television package

Ultimately, the ABL never did land a major TV contract.[1][2] None[3] of the ABL games were broadcast nationally or on prime television channels for basketball.


When the ABL began operations in 1996, its games were carried[4] by the SportsChannel[5] regional networks and Black Entertainment Television (BET) under a two-year contract.[6] SportsChannel[7] would televise 12 games on Sunday nights[8] while BET would televise only 8 games[9] on Saturday nights. SportsChannel televised the San Jose Lasers' opening game[10] on Friday, October 25, 1996 and would televise their January 5 game against the Richmond Rage.


BET initially would televise eight Saturday night games, starting with the New England Blizzard at the Columbus Quest on January 4, 1997[11] and ending with a playoff semifinal February 22. New England home games on January 25 and February 15 would also be shown during the 1996–97 season.

Come the second year, the ABL's television package[12] included 36 games combined on Fox Sports Net[13] and BET.

During 1997, the ABL averaged a 0.6 rating while rival league, the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) scored nearly a 2 rating on NBC.[14] A rating point is equal to 980,000 TV households. Besides NBC's weekly game,[15] ESPN[16] and the Lifetime channel also each got a weekly WNBA game. That's a total weekly exposure of 130 million homes, more than double the 66 million the ABL reached on SportsChannel[17] and BET.[18]

BET[19] was scheduled to televise 12 games[20] on Saturday nights. After broadcasting four games in December 1997, the remaining eight would be aired starting on January 4 and the following Saturdays through February. The ABL's revenue came solely from the BET.[21] In comparison,[22] the WNBA (as previously mentioned) boasted major television deals[23] with NBC,[24] ESPN,[25] and the Lifetime cable network. BET would use the games to build a lead-in audience for reruns of 227.[26]

Fox Sports Net

When league officials were negotiating with Fox Sports Net,[27][28] it was in revision[29] of a contract that the league signed with Fox Sports Net's forerunner, Prime Network.[30] The ABL games were often broadcast on tape delay[31] on BET and Fox Sports Net.

All the while, the ABL had paid a fee[32] to have two games of its championship series[33] aired on CBS[34][35] had the 1998–99 season been played in full and 16 games[36] on Fox Sports Net,[37] which at the time consisted 22 regional sports cable channels,[38] up to seven playoff games, including all of the best-of-5 ABL championship series.[39]

Fox Sports Net's primary broadcast team included Tracy Warren (play-by-play), Debbie Antonelli[40] (color commentary), and Heather Cox[41] (sideline reporter). Also utilized by Fox Sports Net were Ron Barr[42] (play-by-play) and Debbie Gore[43] (color commentary).


  1. ^ Purdy, Mark (May 12, 2017). "Purdy: Joe Lacob lost $10 million on the first basketball team he owned — with no regrets". The Mercury News.
  2. ^ Callebs, Sean (December 19, 1996). "WNBA scores big sponsors". CNN Money.
  3. ^ "The political economy of women's professional basketball in the United States: A structure-conduct-performance approach" (PDF). Theoretical and Applied Economics Volume XIX (2012), No. 11 (576), pp. 107-126.
  4. ^ Sandomir, Richard (December 23, 1998). "ANALYSIS: Lack of TV deal kills ABL". The New York Times.
  5. ^ Gallo, Bill (October 2, 1997). "Hoop Sisters". Westword.
  6. ^ Gay, Nancy (January 21, 1997). "With Rival on Heels, ABL Comes Out Scoring". SF Gate.
  7. ^ Schmuck, Peter (February 2, 1997). "Women's game: two shots Basketball: The ABL and the WNBA have different philosophies but a common goal: to make the women's pro sport a major-league success". The Baltimore Sun.
  8. ^ Rosner, Shropshire, Scott, Kenneth (2011). The Business of Sports. Jones & Bartlett Publishers. p. 124. ISBN 9780763780784.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  10. ^ Harrington, Jim (October 23, 1996). "Hoop dreams". Palo Alto Online.
  11. ^ Berlet, Bruce (December 13, 1996). "BLIZZARD RELEASE GUARD DAVIS". The Hartford Courant.
  12. ^ Gloster, Rob (December 22, 1998). "American Basketball League Folds". AP.
  13. ^ Crawford, Dan (November 3, 1997). "Rival women's basketball leagues slug it out for supremacy on and off court". American City Business Journals.
  14. ^ Jacobs, Jeff (April 29, 1998). "WNBA EXPOSED: IT'S ALL ABOUT HYPE". The Hartford Courant.
  15. ^ "1997-1998 Long Beach Stingrays". Fun While It Lasted. March 16, 2012.
  16. ^ Bernstein, Blain, Alina, Neil (2003). Sport, Media, Culture: Global and Local Dimensions. Psychology Press. p. 208. ISBN 9780714652993.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  17. ^ Peterson, Gary (September 23, 1996). "Women Earned This League Of Their Own". The Spokesman-Review.
  18. ^ "WNBA IS AIMED, READY TO SHOOT". Daily Press. June 21, 1997.
  19. ^ Knight, Athelia (January 2, 1998). "IN ITS SECOND SEASON, ABL IS ABOVE AVERAGE". The Washington Post.
  20. ^ Litsky, Frank (October 10, 1997). "PRO BASKETBALL; The A.B.L. Hopes for a Successful Encore". The New York Times.
  21. ^ Kalec, William (February 5, 1999). "A bankrupt league". Daily Collegian.
  22. ^ Pedersen, Paul Mark; Parks, Janet; Quarterman, Jerome; Thibault, Lucie (2011). Contemporary Sport Management. Human Kinetics. p. 256. ISBN 9780736081672.
  23. ^ Roberts, Selena (December 23, 1998). "PRO BASKETBALL; Nice Try, No Reward As A.B.L. Goes Dark". The New York Times.
  24. ^ "Abl More Than Holds Its Own Against Wnba". The Spokesman-Review. May 4, 1997.
  25. ^ English, Antonya (September 12, 2005). "WNBA's draft catches ABL". Tampa Bay Times.
  26. ^ Steele, David (December 24, 1998). "ABL Failed To Make Most Of Opportunity". SF Gate.
  27. ^ Storm, Stephanie (October 10, 1997). "WNBA, ABL PULLING NO PUNCHES". The Orlando Sentinel.
  28. ^ Gustkey, Earl (December 23, 1998). "Women's League Is Calling It Quits". Los Angeles Times.
  29. ^ Rumore, Daniel (August 12, 1997). "ABL, WNBA are in leagues of their own ABL has the better talent, but WNBA has a following". The Baltimore Sun.
  30. ^ Morris, David (October 18, 1996). "ABL Tips Off With Crystal-Clear Vision". The Oklahoman.
  31. ^ Hoffmann, Frank; Batchelor, Robert P.; Manning, Martin J. (23 May 2016). Basketball in America: From the Playgrounds to Jordan's Game and Beyond. Routledge. ISBN 9781135419936.
  32. ^ Slusser, Susan (December 23, 1998). "American Basketball League Folds / WNBA alone after 'sad day' for women's sports". SF Gate.
  33. ^ Hallman, Charles (July 20, 2016). "The ABL blazed the trail for the WNBA". Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.
  34. ^ Cavanaugh, Jack (January 25, 1999). "ABL action more likely in court than on". Sports Business Journal.
  35. ^ Kane, Michael (December 23, 1998). "Xplosion hit with players off on holiday". The Denver Post.
  36. ^ American Basketball League Folds Midway Through Third Season. Johnson Publishing Company. January 18, 1999.
  37. ^ Martin, Susan (December 22, 1998). "BANKRUPT ABL FOLDS AT HALFTIME OF THIRD SEASON". The Buffalo News.
  38. ^ Lowitt, Bruce (October 1, 2005). "A back seat to no one". Tampa Bay Times.
  39. ^ "Fox To Televise Abl". SWX Right Now. September 10, 1997.
  40. ^ Byrne, Christopher (February 2, 2008). "Debbie Antonelli: "One of The Best Prepared Baskestball Analysts In the Business"". Eye On Sports Media.
  41. ^ Columbus Quest vs Long Beach/ABL Champ./Mar 15, 1998/last 1min:16sec. on YouTube
  42. ^ Brown, O'Rourke, Robert S., Daniel J. (2003). Case Studies in Sport Communication. Greenwood Publishing. p. 34. ISBN 9780275975302.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  43. ^ 1998 ABL Game Lasers vs on YouTube
This page was last edited on 30 August 2023, at 12:51
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