[This post has been updated, June 26, 5:19 p.m.]
Yahoo delivered a game-changer to NBA draft viewers Thursday night when it introduced its first live streaming draft show produced by its NBA website “The Vertical.” With coverage from revered NBA reporters Adrian Wojnarowski and Shams Charania, the show was ahead of ESPN’s telecast with each draft selection and breaking news, including trades.
The show, which was hosted by Chris Mannix with in-studio analysis from Indiana Hoosiers Coach Tom Crean, was such a hit that it drew in 2.8 million unique viewers with an average watch time of 34 minutes per user, a Yahoo spokesperson told Awful Announcing. The show brought in 3.7 million different viewers over the course of what was almost four hours of extensive coverage.
“It’s kind of something new that has never been done before, so it was a fun experiment for us,” the spokesperson said.
To be sure, comparing television to web metrics is difficult, as one industry analyst noted subsequent to this article being published:
Regardless of who enjoyed the broader audience, Wojnarowski told Awful Announcing that the preparedness of the Yahoo staff is what helped draw so many viewers.
“I think the numbers are a reflection of the quality of the content, of the quality of the production of the show, and the great reach and brand that we have on the NBA and the reach that The Vertical and the reach that Yahoo has. I was just pleased with the reporting, pleased with not only breaking a tremendous amount of stories over the course of the evening and the last week leading into the draft, but with the accuracy of what we’re doing. And the quality of the analysis; what Tom Crean did in the studio was impressive. If Tom Crean decided to do this full-time, he’d be as good as anyone there is. He’s obviously an elite coach, a championship-level coach, and at the top of his profession. I thought he was beyond insightful and prepared and his energy permeated the show. Chris Mannix was tremendous in that role of hosting and knows the league inside-out and has his own contacts, and Bobby Marks, what he brought, and Shams Charania, his reporting was tremendous. It was a total team effort and it was a reflection of what we can do.”
Wojnarowski, who says word of mouth boosted viewership tremendously, foresees live-streaming coverage of top NBA events like the draft and free agency as a successful avenue for Yahoo to travel.
“Hopefully the commitment will be there from Yahoo to want to continue to do these and build off these and sell off of them.I think we can keep doing more. I think we can build off it, I think we can do these in free agency, do it at the trade deadline, do it again at the draft. My hope is that this kind of show would be a stable of what we can do with The Vertical.”
The depth of the coverage, plus that it was announcing selections before the televised broadcast, made it an instant hit with viewers, while fans grew increasingly dissatisfied with ESPN’s slow and, at times, inaccurate coverage. At one point, ESPN broke down the Orlando Magic depth chart that included Victor Oladipo and Ersan Ilyasova despite the fact they had already been traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder earlier in the night.
The unique coverage may not have been the only factor either.
Last year, Yahoo live-streamed the Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars NFL game played in London to the tune of more than 15 million viewers worldwide, which suggests Thursday night’s stream may have been available internationally, too. The NBA saw a draft-record 26 international players get selected Thursday, including five from France, three from Serbia and two from China.