29 Apr 2020

NFL Draft: the show must go on… from home.

History was made last Thursday when the NFL and ESPN hosted the NFL Draft completely virtually for the first time ever. While it was originally scheduled to take place in Las Vegas, social distancing requirements and the large gathering ban amidst the COVID-19 pandemic nixed those plans.

Trey Wingo hosted the live coverage from the ESPN headquarters in Bristol, CT with commissioner Roger Goodell delivering the opening comments as usual, but from his own remote location. He even allowed a lighthearted joke at his own expense, displaying a monitor with a split screen of fans offering up some “boos” live.

Prospective draftees were sent an at-home broadcast kit and the hats of each of the 32 teams. The kit included both an interview package and “always-on” broadcast gear. The interview portion included just a ring light, QuietComfort earphones, and a tripod for what was essentially a Facetime/Quicklink set-up. The “always-on” kit was a little more involved so that talent could quickly toss to a live shot of the room in which the players and their families were waiting and watching. It featured a small boom mic, a light stand, and a Larix screencaster to achieve the live shot. Head coaches, GMs and additional ESPN NFL analysts also had these set up for their live look-ins and remarks.

This is a great example of what has become the temporary “new normal” in the audio visual, events and broadcast television industries. Live streaming is the go-to alternative to meeting in person at large conferences, trade shows, expos or town halls. There are many different solutions out there, ranging in quality from group video calls all the way up to fully produced and staged live broadcasts.

The NFL Draft was the perfect showcase for the importance of planning and executing these logistics to the highest level of professional quality. While the stage is always massive for one of pro football’s biggest days, ratings were a not-so-shocking 37 percent higher than last year. The constant desire for live content from sports fans runs far and wide, to put it lightly!

As a company who has worked the NFL Draft in the past, Media Stage was intrigued to see this done virtually for the first time in league history. Two years ago, our team did the AV for Calvin Ridley’s draft party during which he was selected to the Atlanta Falcons in the first round. As such, we have a deep appreciation for the nuances and all the planning that goes into this event. To get this off without a major hitch was an incredibly impressive feat, and our hat is off to all those involved!