Caitlin Clark-led 2024 WNBA Draft shatters TV ratings record

The Caitlin Clark effect strikes again. 

One of women’s basketball’s biggest names helped drive a 307 percent increase in viewership for Monday’s 2024 WNBA Draft at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, drawing a whopping 2.446 million viewers to ESPN’s coverage, according to Sportico.  

The massive increase is due in large part to the hype around Clark being selected first overall by the Indiana Fever. 

It marked the first time that the women’s league draft drew more than 1 million viewers and easily surpassed the viewership of both the MLB and NHL drafts in 2023, Sports Business Journal’s Austin Karp reported

The previous WNBA draft viewership record had been set 20 years earlier when 601,000 viewers tuned in to see Diana Taurasi taken first by the Phoenix Mercury.

Tuesday’s draft featured a bevy of women’s basketball stars who also played a role in the large audience, including Stanford’s Cameron Brink, taken second overall by the LA Sparks, and national champion Kamilla Cardoso and LSU star Angel Reese going to the Chicago Sky with the third- and seventh-overall picks.

However, Clark was the biggest draw and has been over the course of her final year with Iowa. 

The basketball superstar had been part of the three most-watched women’s college basketball games during Iowa’s run to the national championship game.

The Hawkeyes’ victory over LSU in the Elite Eight drew a then-record 12.3 million viewers before that record was toppled again in Iowa’s Final Four win over UConn when 14.2 million tuned in for that matchup. 

Clark ended her college career as part of the most-watched women’s hoops broadcast when 18.7 million watchers took in the national championship game between Iowa and South Carolina, with the broadcast peaking at 24 million viewers. 

The ratings are a positive sign for the WNBA, which hopes to see an increased interest in the league with Clark’s – along with Reese, Cardoso, Brink and others’ – presence in the league next season. 

The draft ratings were the highest for any WNBA televised even in 23 years when a 2000 broadcast of a game between the Liberty and Comets on NBC averaged 2.74 million viewers, according to Sports Media Watch. 

The league is leaning heavily into Clark Mania by airing 36 of the Fever’s 40 games nationally during the 2024 season.

The 22-year-old had a historic senior season with the Hawkeyes toppling just about every women’s college basketball record there was, including becoming women’s college hoops all-time scorer and surpassing the NCAA basketball scoring record — men’s or women’s Division I hoops — with 3,951 career points. 

To cap off a memorable night on Monday, Clark set another record, becoming Fanatics’ top-selling draft pick in any draft night history and surpassing 2021 NFL Draft No. 1 pick Trevor Lawrence.

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