ESPN saw high viewership numbers over the past weekend despite the absence of live sports, with the premiere of the first two episodes of “The Last Dance” documentary Sunday night and the WNBA draft two days earlier.
The 10-part documentary series about the Chicago Bulls‘ quest during the 1997-98 season to win a sixth NBA title averaged 6.1 million viewers for episodes 1 and 2 on Sunday across ESPN and ESPN2 from 9-11 p.m. ET. Of those 6.1 million, 3.5 million were in the 18-49 demographic.
The premiere episodes are the two most-viewed original content broadcasts on ESPN Networks since 2004, and the most-viewed telecast on ESPN since the college football national championship game in January.
“The Last Dance” is the most-watched telecast among adults 18-34 and 18-49 since sports halted across broadcast and cable networks in March because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“The Last Dance” was the No. 1 trending topic Sunday on Twitter, and at one point, 25 of the 30 trending topics were all related to the show. It was also the top Google search trend in the United States on Sunday. On Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, “Last Dance” posts from ESPN accounted for a combined 9 million engagements.
Friday’s WNBA draft on ESPN, in which Oregon’s Sabrina Ionescu was the No. 1 pick by the New York Liberty, was the most-watched in 16 years and the second most-watched in history.
The draft, conducted virtually because of the pandemic, averaged 387,000 viewers on ESPN, up 123 percent over the 2019 draft on ESPN2 and ESPNU, when Notre Dame’s Jackie Young went No. 1, and up 33 percent from the last time it aired on ESPN in 2011, when UConn’s Maya Moore was the No. 1 pick.
On WNBA and NBA social media handles, the draft generated 6.5 million video views (up 165 percent vs. last year) and 1.3 million minutes watched (up 237 percent vs. last year). The @WNBA Instagram handle had its highest year-over-year growth, generating more than 3.8 million video views on draft day.