The "fully virtual" 2020 NFL draft was a massive commercial success for the league.
The league announced 55 million viewers tuned into the event over three days, setting a new record. The 8.4 million average viewers was a 35 percent increase from 2019 as well.
Running concurrently with the draft, the NFL held a three-day fundraiser, with the proceeds going toward six charities offering aid tied to the COVID-19 pandemic. The "Draft-a-Thon" raised more than $6.6 million.
Jim Trotter @JimTrotter_NFL
The NFL’s virtual draft was a reality hit. Hearing from coaches and GMs that they enjoyed opportunity to be around family, even if for the brief breaks between picks. Will be interesting to see how they incorporate virtual use into day to day biz, which some would like to do.
Plus, fans got a different look at NFL coaches and general managers as they worked from home. Kliff Kingsbury's palatial home and Bill Belichick's dog were immediate viral sensations.
The NFL has already lined up the next three hosts for the draft (Cleveland in 2021, Las Vegas in 2022 and Kansas City in 2023), so this was almost certainly a one-off occurrence.
But the viewership showed how the league might have inadvertently stumbled onto something with a virtual version for one of its biggest showcases.