NFL Draft Averages Record 8.4M Viewers Across 3 Days

Draft was must-see TV as the first significant live sporting event since the coronavirus pandemic ground everything to a halt. The draft averaged a record 8.4 million viewers over all three days, according to the NFL and Nielsen. The previous high was 6.2 million last year.

After early concerns about how the NFL could conduct a virtual draft, everyone appeared to end up having fun with it. Coaches and general managers embraced their children or spouses being on camera and draft picks got to watch from home comfortably instead of waiting in a green room.

Each day attracted record audiences. Thursday’s first round averaged 15.6 million, Friday’s second and third rounds 8.2 million and Saturday’s final four rounds 4.2 million. ESPN and NFL Network had a combined production all three days while ABC had separate telecasts Thursday and Friday before simulcasting the ESPN/NFL Network feed Saturday. ESPN Deportes also had a separate broadcast.

The biggest criticism of ESPN/NFL Network’s coverage was that discussions too often were focused on the personal tragedies in each prospect’s life, which ended up dominating the telecast at times. The storytelling and off-the-field stories are a huge part of ABC’s coverage the first two nights while many expected ESPN to stick more to the X’s and O’s.

Due to the quick-moving nature of Thursday’s first round, there weren’t many interviews with players. By the time players were done celebrating with their families and got into position to be interviewed, they already had the next selection. Interviews still took place but were distributed on ESPN and NFL digital channels, as well as some airing on ABC.