The 2020 Women’s National Basketball Association Draft enjoyed a significant ratings boost thanks in large part to the event’s pride of place on the main ESPN network and the dearth of any competing sports broadcasts amid the Covid-19 shutdown.
This year’s event, which was shifted to a virtual format in light of the ongoing health crisis, averaged 387,000 viewers on ESPN, which was up 123 per cent over the 2019 Draft on ESPN2 and ESPNU. It was also the most-watched WNBA Draft in 16 years and the second most-watched in ESPN’s history.
The WNBA Draft, which took place on April 17, was originally scheduled to air on ESPN2 but was moved up to ESPN.
There was also significant interest due to the presence of women’s basketball superstar Sabrina Ionescu, who was selected No. 1 by the New York Liberty.
Ionescu became one of the most successful and most popular college basketball players in recent times during her four-year spell for the University of Oregon. The 5ft 11in point guard was expected to dominate this year’s NCAA women’s basketball tournament before it was called off due to the ongoing health crisis.
Within an hour of being drafted, Ionescu’s Liberty jerseys on the WNBA online store sold out. Shortly afterwards, global licensed sports merchandise manufacturer and retailer Fanatics ensured that thousands more Ionescu jerseys were available for order in various sizes.
The WNBA Draft also had a significant social media impact, generating 6.5 million video views and 1.3 million minutes watched across WNBA and NBA social media handles. In addition, the WNBA Instagram handle had its highest year-over-year growth, generating more than 3.8 million video views on Draft Day.
The WNBA has delayed the start of its season indefinitely because of the coronavirus crisis.
Elsewhere, ESPN’s highly-anticipated multi-part Michael Jordan documentary series The Last Dance proved an immediate ratings hit for the sports network, with the first two episodes averaging 6.1 million viewers across ESPN and ESPN2.