The NBA Draft aired on ESPN and ABC Thursday, with both networks airing the first round and the second round airing exclusively on ESPN.
Overall, the results were promising for ESPN, with the Draft’s first round averaging 3.988 million viewers across both networks and the second round averaging 1.124 million on ESPN alone.
NBA Draft: First round on ABC & ESPN: 3.988 million combined viewers, up 32% from last year's first round.
The second round on ESPN: 1.124 million viewers, up 55% from last year's second round.
— John Ourand (@Ourand_SBJ) June 24, 2022
When comparing viewership to previous years, there’s one gigantic caveat and one smaller caveat. The latter is a drum we’ve been beating for the last year-plus: out of home viewing is now included in Nielsen’s viewership and ratings data. Those out of home numbers weren’t included in Nielsen’s data prior to the fall of 2020, and they are now.
But the more significant caveat is the fact that the first round was simulcast on ABC for the second straight year, which hadn’t happened before 2021. Adding network TV to the fray is also going to result in a viewership spike, like we saw last year (the first round of that Draft averaged 2.98 million viewers on ABC and ESPN).
At the worst, you can slap (another) “best since 2019!” tag on this year’s Draft. At best, it’s tough to compare it to other years, since the first and second rounds were split into different broadcasts in Nielsen’s data. The Draft has typically drawn somewhere in the area of three million viewers (give or take) over the years, and it seems like this year’s was right in that general range as well (my back of the envelope math has it around three million), given that the more-watched first round was twice as long as the less-watched second round.