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Strong opening weekend on Twitter and FanDuel for WNBA

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    Seattle’s Jewell Loyd tried to keep the ball away from Indiana’s Marissa Coleman on Sunday.

NEW YORK >> It was a good opening weekend for the WNBA on the court and an even better one off the court.

The league had its first live streamed game on Twitter on Sunday with Diana Taurasi and Phoenix facing Skylar Diggins-Smith and Dallas. There were 1.1 million unique viewers and an average minute audience of 62,459 watching. That’s about a third of what the NFL drew on average for its 10 Thursday Night Football games.

Twitter, which counts a view when a video is 50 percent in view for two seconds, said that the game was watched across the U.S. and worldwide. Twitter also unveiled a WNBA emoji when fans tweeted #WNBA or #WNBALive.

“This is a new season and you always want to not only maintain your momentum, but accelerate it,” WNBA President Lisa Borders told the Associated Press.

“It’s all about the fan base and growing the league. Twitter and Fanduel are two tools for us to grow. They are great partnerships. Having them so well received was a huge success all the way around.”

The idea of streaming games came from a conversation Borders had with Seattle Storm guard Jewell Loyd this past winter.

“She asked me about ideas to help grow the game,” Loyd said Monday night. “Being overseas and watching the Super Bowl on Twitter, I was like why don’t we try to get a lot of our games on Twitter so it’s global. Our overseas fans don’t get to watch us in the WNBA and now going on Twitter they can, it expands our game.”

Loyd had a stellar opening weekend herself, averaging 26 points two games for the Storm.

“People get a chance to see the best players in the world and saw some really good games this past weekend,” Loyd said. “The league is getting better, games are getting more competitive.”

The next Twitter game is Friday night with Phoenix visiting the San Antonio Stars. The social media site, which has a three-year deal with the WNBA, will show 20 games this season. Only games that are not on television can be seen online.

Fans also flocked to FanDuel to play WNBA daily fantasy games with more than 30,000 competing. There were nearly 26,000 players on FanDuel for the free tipoff challenge Saturday where the winner earned two courtside tickets to a game. Just over 10,000 fans played Sunday’s version of the game.

“We had more than 30,000 people play WNBA on opening weekend and have great momentum going into the rest of the season,” FanDuel spokeswoman Justine Sacco said.

Both Twitter and FanDuel did have a few small glitches. The Twitter streamed game didn’t have the time and score graphic in the opening quarter.

That was fixed by the second period. FanDuel had a few players that were still playing overseas or injured listed as eligible to be picked. Angel McCoughtry, who is sitting out this season to rest was on 20 percent of the rosters for the free tournament on Saturday.

Kayla McBride, who is still playing in Turkey in the playoffs was owned by 38 percent of the players. Chiney Ogwumike, who is injured and out for the season was owned by nearly 31 percent of the users.

“We hoped and expected for the community to widely embrace Twitter and FanDuel. It’s the first year,” Borders said.

“Our community is so passionate about the game and we knew they’d love it. But can we expand and have more people love it? Those who were unfamiliar with the WNBA in FanDuel, would the fantasy community embrace us and it appears that they have done so and we’re ecstatic.”

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