It's that the NBA isn't the best partner for the WNBA
, because there is so little crossover in fans. WNBA would be better off pairing with other women's team sports
on their own network/streaming service
rather than how they are currently being presented...as the "inferior" female version of an already existing (and more popular) men's league.
I think it's a bit more complicated than you're describing, too. Nate suggests sports like tennis where slower and weaker players make things more interesting - I suggest differently: on a macro scale, men in particular want to watch women's sports only if they can objectify them. And it's not about men wanting to watch the best of the best because if that were true college sports wouldn't be a thing; that's just a nice cover for not wanting to watch women unless they can be objectified somehow. It's no surprise that the Williams sisters take so much flak while lesser women's tennis players wind up challenging their fame and earnings.
Taking a closer look at that assertion, the sport where I actually think nate's assertion about slower and weaker making things easier to follow and more interesting holds true is actually ultimate fighting. I honestly prefer watching women's fights in that sense. Women demonstrate the technique, counters and form that men quite often can just cut through because a single kick or punch at the right time eliminates the need for any of that. Women's fighting isn't popular but it should be - particularly if that argument holds true.
Women's sports know that this is about objectification, too. They make all sorts of short skirt requirements. The women's market... it's not so much that it isn't there as it isn't there to the same degree. The women's market is spread out a bit more. Sports has absolutely crushed the men's market, by and large. There's a lot of image that goes into that kind of thing growing up, meanwhile, the objectification of women doesn't start with sports - it starts well before that and there are industries geared towards that. Is that good/bad? I have no idea. I do see some things changing for the better lately, albeit slowly.
Disney had this challenge, for example, marketing a female Jedi in a Star Wars market that was absolutely male dominated (not that women don't also like Star Wars, but men like it way more on average). Disney had experience with princesses and the like and still couldn't quite figure out the action figure market and such. And it was there in their case and they really failed to take advantage of it out of the gates. It goes beyond sports, though. And to that end, while I think it's not so simple as same pay for same work, because the pay is essentially for a popularity contest, I do like the ultimate ends the work is aspiring to achieve. Changing society requires action as though it will change quickly when in reality it's going to take decades. Acting as though it will take decades is a recipe for nothing to change at all.
The flip side to this is that the WNBA doesn't actually cost the NBA that much to support in the grand scheme of things. They're attempting to spread the sport and build markets that previously weren't as strong. That was the whole point of their Chinese misadventures and it's the point of the WNBA, too. Get more people playing the sport, watching the sport, etc. That means eventually you'll have more people watching the WNBA and the NBA, too. Continuing to build the fanbase of the sport in general matters. The NBA wasn't exactly a super financial windfall out of the gates, either.