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People Were Really Starved for a Sporting Event

NFL Draft, held virtually, shattered viewing records
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 27, 2020 9:05 AM CDT

(Newser) – Seth Markman was just as nervous as NFL coaches and general managers about the unknown factors involved with a virtual draft. But the ESPN executive producer said he was overwhelmed with how everything came together as the first significant live sporting event since the coronavirus pandemic ground everything to a halt. The draft averaged a record 8.4 million viewers over all three days, according to the NFL and Nielsen. The previous high was 6.2 million last year. “I thought a coach or general manager might put a towel on the camera or point it another direction, but there were zero issues," Markman said. After early concerns about how the NFL could conduct a virtual draft, everyone appeared to have fun with it. Coaches and GMs embraced their children or spouses being on camera and draft picks got to watch from home comfortably instead of waiting in a green room.

Even normally stodgy New England coach Bill Belichick got into the spirit by giving his dog some TV time, reports the AP. “Every time I looked up there was more family around,” Markman said. "I think it speaks to the coaches that when this is done, they can remember it is OK not to be in the office at all times.” Miami coach Brian Flores, who celebrated picks with sons Miles and Maxwell, said it was important to show another side of him. “When I think about being a coach, you want to help players become good players but good people, good husbands, good fathers, good sons; and I think we, as coaches, need to be good examples of that,” said Flores, whose young daughter, Liliana, at times sat on his lap. Each day attracted record audiences. Thursday’s first round averaged 15.6 million, Friday’s second and third rounds 8.2 million, and Saturday’s final four rounds 4.2 million.

(Read more NFL draft stories.)

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