NFL Draft Becomes Lifeline for Sports Betting and Broadcasters

The NFL draft is always a closely watched event, with sports fans, gamblers and fantasy-football addicts eagerly awaiting each pick.

But this year — when the rest of the sports world is shut down because of the coronavirus — it’s become a lifeline for broadcasters, advertisers and bookmakers that are all starved for content.

FanDuel Group Chief Executive Officer Matthew King expects online betting related to the draft to be 10 times the volume of last year. His company and competitors, such as DraftKings, have been adding new types of bets related to the event, which starts Thursday at 8 p.m. New York time.

“The draft is going to be a huge event,” King said in an interview with Bloomberg Television’s Emily Chang on Wednesday. “It’s always a big event, but this year it’ll be even bigger, given that there’s so little other sports on.”

Walt Disney Co., which is running the event on its ABC and ESPN networks, said it’s seeing “unprecedented demand” from advertisers. Of the more than 100 sponsors who signed up for the three-day event, 60 were advertising on it for the first time, Disney said. Overall spending was up by a percentage in the double digits versus last year, the company said.

It’s the first virtual draft for the National Football League, with Commissioner Roger Goodell announcing the picks from his home. The networks will have video feeds from nearly 100 locations, as they capture the action with player prospects first hearing the news of their new teams from their homes.

Advertisers includeVerizon Communications Inc., which is sponsoring a “Prospect Cam,” and Anheuser-Busch InBev SA’sBud Light, which is backing what the channels called a virtual huddle.

The draft was originally scheduled to be held in Las Vegas, where it was expected to showcase the new stadium built for the Raiders this season as well as the city’s overall embrace of sports betting. But Las Vegas, like most of the country, is shut down due to the virus.

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