ESPN Rides Final Four Momentum to WNBA Draft
By Carolyn Braff
The University of Connecticut women’s basketball team capped a perfect season on Tuesday night by winning the school’s sixth national title, and ESPN hopes to carry that momentum into Thursday’s WNBA Draft. This year, for the first time, the draft will be televised in high-definition, on ESPN2 HD and ESPNU HD. According to Carol Stiff, senior director of programming and acquisitions for ESPN, the Final Four is a perfect lead-in to the enhanced draft coverage.
“I think it’s a great marriage that we weave,” she explains. “We leave the Final Four at the pinnacle of the NCAA Championship, hand over the trophy, and two days later, we’re announcing that one of the players from the Final Four might be the number-one pick. I look forward to the draft because, for me, it’s a continuation of what we’ve been doing all year.”
The WNBA Draft, which will be broadcast live from the NBA Entertainment studios in Secaucus, NJ, has certainly been top of mind for ESPN analysts throughout the NCAA Tournament. ESPN talent has been discussing the draft throughout the Road to St. Louis. Carolyn Peck, one of the studio analysts for the tournament, will serve as an analyst for the WNBA Draft coverage on Thursday, helping connect the college-tournament coverage with the WNBA coverage.
Broadcasting the draft in HD this season was not a hard sell to the network, Stiff says. “It needs to be in HD, and our folks back in Bristol pulled the trigger on it. Any time we can get programming in HD is a big deal for us. All the WNBA games this year will be in HD, and we’ve never done that before. I think it’s just a great extension of our commitment to the game.”
The top players eligible for this year’s WNBA draft include many of the stars of the NCAA Tournament, which should help draw viewers to Thursday’s broadcast.
“This draft includes a lot of great players that we have showcased over the course of their four-year career in college by doing all the games of the tournament,” Stiff says. “The stories that we’ve heard through this tournament bode well for us in making this draft an unbelievable event.”
Live coverage of the WNBA Draft begins Thursday April 9 at 3 p.m. ET on ESPN2 HD and ESPN360.com. The second and third rounds will air on ESPNU HD and NBA TV from 4 to 5:30 p.m.