Despite the stutter-step lockout and the drop in NFL interest and activity, the 2011 draft generated the second-highest total audience in league history, with 42 million people tuning in for at least one minute, according to SportsBusiness Daily.
It’s impressive under the circumstances, but that number needs to be compared to a number we’ll never know — the full size of the audience if the league weren’t mired in a work stoppage.
Our guess is that a non-lockout total audience would have checked in at 50 million or more, especially since the total audience for 2010 checked in at 45.4 million. In 2009, 39 million watched at least a minute of the proceedings.
The NFL had been on a continuous upward trajectory for an extended period of time. And while a locked-out league performed fairly well during the draft, the second best isn’t good enough for a business that continuously had been setting the bar higher and higher.