Maybe the NFL draft would have had record viewership no matter what was going on in the world.
It was a deep draft that had interesting stories on the first day, and still plenty of big-name talent for the second day. College stars like Jalen Hurts, Tee Higgins, Jonathan Taylor, D’Andre Swift and Antoine Winfield Jr. were still available heading into the second round. That’s more name recognition than usual for the second and third rounds.
But the main driver behind some unbelievable ratings was the NFL draft being the main event on the sports calendar in April. With most people staying at home due to the coronavirus pandemic, the second day of the NFL draft did numbers that other sports would love for big playoff games.
An average of 8.2 million viewers watched the second day of the draft across ABC, ESPN, NFL Network, ESPN Deportes and digital platforms. That’s a second-day record for NFL draft ratings. The first day also shattered a record, with an average of 15.6 million viewers.
Round 2 of the 2020 #NFLDraft is the most-watched Day 2 ever— ESPN PR (@ESPNPR) April 25, 2020
Friday's coverage averaged 8.2 million viewers across @ABCNetwork, ESPN, @nflnetwork, @ESPNDeportes and digital platforms pic.twitter.com/DyVpkZX6Xr
The Friday spike was a 40 percent increase from the second-day ratings last year. The peak audience was 10 million viewers. That’s a monster audience for anything, much less a draft after the 32 best players have already been selected.
The broadcast itself was a draw, as people wanted to see oddball moments like Roger Goodell relaxing in his easy chair and announcing picks with his feet up, or Bill Belichick’s dog taking its post at the computer for the New England Patriots’ pick. There were also some shocking moments like the Philadelphia Eagles drafting Hurts, and picks that fantasy football players paid a lot of attention to.
The remote draft appealed to viewers — and came off without any significant issues. In addition to sending phones to the prospects and NFL staff to create content, Verizon provided technical support to 23 of the league’s 32 teams to ensure they maintained connectivity. Verizon engineers also operated a war room to “monitor activity on all equipment” used for the draft.
The NFL decided to go forward with the draft despite coronavirus shutdowns. Goodell said a few times that he hoped it was a welcomed distraction for fans. Judging by the amazing television ratings, it was.
Verizon is the parent company of Yahoo Sports.
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