04/22/20: The WNBA Draft drew viewership last week that hit a 16-year high


Medias First Morning Read
Wednesday April 22, 2020

The 2020 WNBA Draft presented by State Farm on ESPN finished as the most-watched WNBA Draft in 16 years and the second most-watched in ESPN’s history. This year’s event, which was held virtually in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, averaged 387,000 viewers on ESPN, up 123% over the 2019 Draft, and up 33% from the last time it aired on the network in 2011. The 2020 Draft also made an impact across WNBA and NBA social media handles, generating 6.5 million video views (up 165% vs. last year) and 1.3 million minutes watched (up 237% vs. last year).


Meanwhile, the first two episodes of The Last Dance, the 10-part documentary series about Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls’ quest to win a sixth NBA title in eight years, averaged 6.1 million viewers for episodes 1 and 2 across ESPN & ESPN2. Of those 6.1 million, 3.5 million were in the 18-49 demo. On ESPN alone, the two hours averaged 5.3 million viewers, with episode 1 delivering 5.7 million viewers and episode 2 delivering 5 million. #TheLastDance Virtual Watch Party on Twitter saw the show rank as the #1 trend on the platform throughout the night and at one point, 25 of the 30 trending topics were all related to the show.

Updating the event schedule as a result of COVID-19, the Professional Fighters League officially postponed its 2020 season on Monday because of the global impact of the coronavirus. The PFL is the first major MMA organization to formally announce a plan for the rest of 2020 in the wake of the coronavirus. PFL CEO Peter Murray told ESPN that the PFL will refocus on live events in 2021, while exploring the possibility of one-off special events.

In addition, the National Spelling Bee also pulled the plug, cancelling this year’s event on Tuesday with a note that it will return in 2021. Scripps will not change eligibility requirements for the next bee, which is scheduled for June 1-3, 2021. The bee was last canceled from 1943-45 because of World War II.

The 51st World Series of Poker is now being pushed into the fall. Dates and format will be announced at a later date. WSOP was set to begin May 26 at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.

Bellator MMA officials announced that Bellator 244, originally scheduled to take place on June 6 at Wintrust Arena in Chicago, Ill., has been postponed. The organization stated that it will continue to monitor the situation closely and intends to reschedule the event as soon as possible.

Speaking of Bellator MMA, the promotion announced that its historic events and matchups will be showcased on CBS Sports Network starting Saturday at 8p in a new series titled Bellator MMA Recharged. Following the premiere, the series will find a home on Wednesdays with episodes starting April 29 at 8p, hosted by “Big John” McCarthy.

Daily news franchises Morning Drive and Golf Central returned to GOLF Channel’s on-air programming schedule with live, daily half-hour episodes. Both will be produced exclusively via remote, utilizing virtual production technology to originate outside of the network’s studio headquarters. Morning Drive debuts new episodes daily at 9a, while new episodes of Golf Central will air at 6p.

FloSports announced an exclusive North American broadcast for an all-new virtual cycling series from the organizers of the Tour de Suisse – The Digital Swiss 5, a series of one-hour cycling races scheduled to run over five consecutive days from April 22 through April 26. FloBikes will broadcast the series exclusively to both the United States and Canada.

On the radio front, fantasy football columnist Michael Fabiano is joining SiriusXM’s team of fantasy sports analysts where he will host a new show, Fantasy Dirt with Michael Fabiano and Lisa Ann, every Tuesday and Friday 8-10p on the SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio channel. Fabiano now serves as the senior fantasy analyst for NFL Network and has worked as a senior fantasy writer with “The NFL Today” on CBS.

SiriusXM also announced NFL Draft plans, providing listeners nationwide with comprehensive coverage of this year’s event and offering live announcements of every selection with in-depth analysis on the SiriusXM NFL Radio channel, as well as additional NFL Draft-focused programming on SiriusXM’s college sports and fantasy sports channels. Coverage will air Thursday and Friday starting at 7p and Saturday starting at noon. SiriusXM NFL Radio’s draft broadcast team will feature Gil Brandt; Pat Kirwan; Jim Miller; and lead host Jason Horowitz.

TVS is returning to network radio with the reestablishment of the TVS Radio Network. In association with the Sports Byline Radio Network, TVS serves up TVS Presents SPORT Magazine on Radio, hosted by Fred Wallin, and running on weekends on Sports Byline terrestrial and podcast platforms. It also runs in TVS syndication on radio stations that include WCGO-AM in Chicago and WWDB-AM in Philadelphia, plus the TVS podcast platform on Spreaker.

Three-time NBA All-Star Gilbert Arenas debuts No Chill with Gilbert Arenas on May 4 for fubo Sports Network. Through a partnership with Arenas’ No Chill Productions, the weekly No Chill with Gilbert Arenas becomes a vodcast where he is joined by his co-host Mike Botticello.

CBS Sports HQ will stream live, in-depth coverage leading into and throughout the 2020 Draft, including real-time reactions and commentary from a team of pro football insiders, grades for every pick, fantasy football projections, and Vegas perspective. Beginning at 6p on Thursday, Brady Quinn, Danny Kanell, Bryant McFadden, Scott Pioli, Jason LaCanfora, Pete Prisco, Will Brinson, Ryan Wilson, and Kenny White will contribute analysis and updates throughout all seven rounds, with fantasy football experts Jamey Eisenberg and Dave Richard making appearances. Anchors Chris Hassel, Amanda Guerra, Erik Kuselias and Joe Musso will lead the coverage.

The Cynopsis Top Women in Media Awards
Nominations Due: April 30th | Awards Gala: September 24th in NYC

We’re gearing up to raise a glass to this year’s Top Women in Media — female trailblazers who are pushing the industry forward, while empowering and inspiring others. Now’s the time to tell us all about someone in your life who is mastering her role in one of these categories (covering the tv & digital arena OR the sports & esports space).



Shreveport’s Independence Bowl landed a long-term sponsor, locking in Radiance Technologies in a five-year deal. The newly-named Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl will feature a matchup between Army and the Pac-12.

The NHL and its players are cranking up the prize patrol for its new charitable fundraiser, the ALL IN Challenge, created by Fanatics with the All In Challenge Foundation. The initiative has already raised more than $10 million for Meals on Wheels, No Kid Hungry, America’s Food Fund, Feeding America, and World Central Kitchen thanks to people entering sweepstakes and bidding in auctions. Among the prizes is the NHL offering “The Ultimate NHL Winter Classic Experience,” dangling a trip for 10 to the 2021 NHL Winter Classic between the Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues at Target Field in Minneapolis. The package includes access to team practices, a catered suite for the game, a meet-and-greet with representatives from each team, pregame locker room access, and entry into the NHL’s New Year’s Eve party, among other perks.

Tomorrow will see SAP bring together names in sports and entertainment to host a Virtual Take Your Child to Work Day on SAP’s YouTube channel with a lineup the includes Saquon Barkley (NY Giants), Chris Paul (Oklahoma City Thunder), Jimmy Garoppolo (SF 49ers), Brent Burns (SJ Sharks), Sloane Stephens (WTA) and Dario “TLO” Wünsch (Team Liquid), who will participate in interactive Q&As and share how-to videos spanning a variety of topics such as at-home workouts, becoming a professional esports gamer, learning to juggle with household items and much more.

The Los Angeles Chargers revealed new uniforms this offseason, showcasing a new look that includes a signature powder blue, gold and white color scheme with interchangeable pants and jerseys. The design features a simplified bolt on the jersey and pants, while numbers have been added to helmets.


ESPN launched ESPN Draft Challenge presented by Caesars Rewards, offering pro football fans the chance to compete with friends, family and ESPN personalities to win bragging rights and prizes, including a trip for two to Super Bowl LV in Tampa, , and up to $100,000 for a perfect score. Fans can play ESPN Draft Challenge by answering questions to predict various outcomes and picks before the start of the NFL Draft.

ONE Championship announced the launch of its new official online shop, ONE.SHOP, where fans have access to all-new collections of ONE Championship official merchandise and athleisure wear. Added to the wide selection of ONE Championship branded merchandise are new athlete-centric designs featuring some of the organization’s biggest stars. Loyal fans are now rewarded with the Gold Corner, allowing fans to earn exclusive rewards instantly with their purchases.


FaZe Clan announced that the gaming organization will join the NFL’s “Draft-A-Thon” during the first-ever virtual draft this week. To commemorate the historic event, FaZe Clan and the NFL teamed up to create a limited-edition merchandise collection, which will be released the first day of the NFL Draft, marking the NFL’s first-ever clothing collaboration with a gaming organization. A fundraising campaign aimed at raising much-needed funds for COVID-19 relief efforts, “Draft-A-Thon” will be live streamed on NFL social and digital platforms and featured in live Draft coverage on ABC, ESPN, NFL Network, and ESPN Deportes during the 2020 NFL Draft. Members of FaZe Clan who are quarantined together in their Hollywood home will also host a watch party and capturing content during Round 1 of the NFL Draft on Thursday.

NBC Sports, in collaboration with Sky Sports, is serving up the ePremier League Invitational Tournament with representatives participating from all Premier League clubs in a 20-team single-elimination tournament this week starting at 7a. The semifinals and final will air on Sunday at 10a on NBCSN. Sky’s Saturday Social, Adam Smith and Joe Thomlinson will present the matches, joined by Harry Pinero. Telemundo Deportes will also carry the event live on the Telemundo Deportes social platforms Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.

ELEAGUE partnered with Wizards of the Coast to bring back Magic: The Gathering Arena for the second iteration of their ELEAGUE Showdown: Magic The Gathering Arena weekly esports competition series. The Showdown will launch with its first competition today at 6p on ELEAGUE’S Twitch channel with a new competition each Wednesday through May 27. Game experts Alias V, Riley and Marshall will provide play-by-play commentary on the live matches, while analysts Cedric Phillips and Corey Baumeister will break down the players’ strategies.

Gaming seat specialist Secretlab announced a new partnership with Team Liquid in a deal that will include the newly-released Secretlab Team Liquid Edition gaming chair paying homage to Team Liquid’s 20-year run. To kick off the partnership, Secretlab and Team Liquid will launch their first “CHAIR-ity” stream in May. During the period of the stream, Secretlab will donate part of the proceeds from every Secretlab Team Liquid Edition chair sold to charity.

Complexity-Limit announced a partnership with Army National Guard. The two organizations will team up to create “engagement opportunities, unique experiences, and content as part of Complexity-Limit’s participation in World of Warcraft’s Mythic Dungeon International.” Through the end of July, Army National Guard will be integrated throughout Complexity-Limit’s streams and social channels during the ‘Road to MDI,’ a first-of-its-kind stream series in conjunction with the MDI. Guard Soldiers and Complexity-Limit guild members will also compete alongside each other during live streams. The partnership aims to bring WoW fans even closer to the action.


Minor League Baseball will agree to Major League Baseball’s proposal to cut guaranteed affiliations from 160 to 120 next year, according to the AP. MLB would take over all of many of the duties of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues, with licensing agreements instead of franchise affiliations. MLB would then sell sponsorship, licensing and media rights.

Former XFL commissioner Oliver Luck is suing league owner Vince McMahon in federal court, citing wrongful termination after McMahon’s decision to shut down the league, according to ESPN. According to the complaint, filed last week in U.S. District Court in Connecticut, Luck received a termination letter on April 9 — a day before McMahon laid off most of the XFL staff and three days before the league filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

More than 400 youth sports leaders are teaming up to launch PLAY Sports, which stands for Promoting Local and Youth Sports. According to the announcement, the fragmented and grassroots nature of youth sports “necessitated an industry Coalition to work cooperatively, and with the federal, state and local governments and agencies, to advocate for a collective survival and impactful return.” Letters backed by each of the more than 400 Coalition members, which included the National Council of Youth Sports (NCYS), Laureus Sport for Good USA, YMCA of the USA and multiple U.S. sports federations, were delivered on Monday to congressional leaders seeking, among other things, an $8.5 billion economic stabilization fund for youth sports providers and the formation of a youth sports COVID-19 Task Force.

Building A Super-Bond with Audiences During The Pandemic

As live sports/esports events and TV productions are being cancelled due to the COVID-19 outbreak, it’s critical for marketers and rights holders to be on top of their game in strengthening their connections with audiences in our “new normal.” Listen in as experts from the TV, sports media and esports communities share both their best practices as well as new methods of engendering audience loyalty through new form content.


On this Day
2001: The Falcons select Michael Vick with the first pick in the NFL Draft.

In the Know
In 1984, the NFL held a supplemental draft of players from the defunct USFL. Who was the first pick of that draft? (Email [email protected] with your answer and be sure to include your name, company and city).

Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question
Which NFL team has the distinction of being the only one to have ever made four first-round picks in the same Draft? Answer: The NY Jets. Kudos: Joel Maxwell/NY; Rick Ramage-UTA/NY; Art Salisch-Nielsen/NJ; Roger Furman-Sports Marketing Communications/Greentown; James J. Pepe-Villain Barbecue/Bethlehem; Matt Sautter-WideOrbit/Harrisburg; Greg Moloznik-GLM Media/Scottsdale; Tom Moore-Kalt Productions/LA; David Westberg-SAG-AFTRA Credit Union/Burbank; Tom Hurwitz-Palisades Media/LA; Bruce Trotter-Cox/LA

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