The 2020 WNBA Draft was the most watched in 16 years

This year’s first-ever virtual draft was a success on multiple levels

The 2020 WNBA Draft presented by State Farm happened as scheduled on Friday night — with a virtual twist due to the conditions imparted by the COVID-19 pandemic — and fans tuned in in massive numbers. This year’s draft was the most-watched in 16 years (since Diana Taurasi was selected first in 2004) and the second most-watched in ESPN’s history, according to the league’s press release.

Originally, the Draft was going to be aired on ESPN2, but, following a Twitter movement to move the event to ESPN — especially since there were no other live sporting events happening — the network quickly changed course.

WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert announced the picks from her home in new Jersey while the draftees were included via video conference. Despite this unusual set-up, the 2020 Draft averaged 387,000 viewers on ESPN, up 123% from the 2019 Draft, and up 33% from the last time it aired on the network in 2011.

No. 1 overall pick Sabrina Ionescu was also the most popular draftee in recent years after her record-breaking career at Oregon. The 22-year-old also has a massive following online — she currently has 457K followers on Instagram. Sue Bird, for example, has 395K followers on the platform.

Friday night also saw a record number of conversations and messages on social media. According to the league, content posted on WNBA and NBA social media handles generated 6.5 million video views (up 165 percent vs. last year) and 1.3 million minutes watched (up 237 percent vs. last year).  Draft Day also saw the @WNBA Instagram handle reach its highest year-over-year growth, generating more than 3.8 million video views on Friday.

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