Largely on the strength of record-breaking ratings for NCAA women's basketball -- up 36% from last year -- ESPN has decided to air the first round of the Women's National Basketball Association draft live April 17.
It aired the draft on ESPN2 the past three years, but this is its first time on ESPN. This year's move to the mothership is clearly a move up in status for the broadcast, which will be hosted by Pam Ward, with analysis by Ann Meyers and Rebecca Lobo.
It doesn't hurt that this year's draft class is the deepest ever, headlined by UCONN star Diana Taurasi. UCONN's defeat of Tennessee in the championship game on ESPN drew 5.58 million viewers, more than any basketball game, pro or college, in the network's history.
ESPN will work in some self-promotion, with basketball commentator Vera Jones staked out at New York's ESPN Zone sports bar for fan reaction.