The first round of the NFL Draft draws a huge viewership number every year. This year, with fans stuck in their homes and craving some form of live sports, was no exception.
The NFL announced that the first round drew a whopping 15.6 million viewers across ESPN, ABC, NFL Network, and ESPN Deportes, easily setting a new record for the league’s spring event.
Here’s the official announcement by the NFL. pic.twitter.com/dxuyUpUPrj
— Ken Fang (@fangsbites) April 24, 2020
As for the network breakdown, ESPN led the way with 7.86 million viewers, followed by ABC with 5.69 million and NFL Network with 1.72 million.
– ESPN, 7.86 million (+62% from last year's 4.86 million)
– ABC, 5.69 million (+25% from 4.54M)
– NFL Net, 1.72 million (even)
The remaining 400K or so watched on streaming or ESPN Deportes.
— Rick Porter (@rickporter) April 24, 2020
That viewership number is up 37% from 2019 (11.1 million on the same networks), and bests the previous record (2014, 12.4 million on ESPN and NFL Network) by more than three million viewers. In an interesting note, the three top markets for the Draft were all in Ohio: Columbus (Ohio State had two of the top three players selected, and Joe Burrow initially attended OSU before transferring to LSU), Cleveland (a market that is forced to put undue faith in the Draft every year, and Cincinnati (the Bengals had the first overall pick and took Burrow, an Ohio native).
Between the NFL Draft and the premiere of The Last Dance last Sunday, ESPN finally has some good ratings news after six weeks of classic games, socially distanced studio shows, and SportsCenter. The good vibes are not going to last forever, but with four more Sundays airing episodes of The Last Dance through mid-May, and the possibility of live UFC shows from Florida once May rolls around, ESPN could be turning the corner during the pandemic.