Virtual NFL Draft Tackles Record 15.6 Million Viewers

NFL Network, ESPN and ABC telecasts shatter prior draft record by 26%

NFL via Getty Images

The socially-distanced NFL draft drew a record 15.6 million viewers across ABC, NFL Network and ESPN on Thursday.

That was up 37% from last year (11.4 million) and up 26% from the prior record of 12.4 million in 2014. Last year’s telecast also aired across NFL Network, ESPN and ABC, while 2014 did not feature ABC. This year, ESPN and NFL Network co-produced one broadcast that aired on both networks, while ABC produced its own telecast separately.

The NFL Draft continued a particularly strong week for ESPN, which has been hammered by the lack of live sports caused by the coronavirus pandemic-forced shutdown. On Sunday, the two-hour premiere of “The Last Dance” docuseries about Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, drew the network’s best ratings ever for a documentary.

“The theme of hope is always prevalent in the NFL, especially with regard to the Draft,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. “In 2020, that’s especially true, as we help honor healthcare workers, first responders, and others on the front lines of the battle with COVID-19 while giving our fans something to cheer about as we celebrate the next generation of NFL stars. We are thrilled so many people were able to join us last night and we thank them for helping support the Draft-A-Thon.”

Read more about TheWrap’s coverage of the 2020 NFL Draft and the effort between ESPN and NFL Network to pull off the remote broadcast here. Round’s 2-3 continue Friday with the draft wrapping up with Rounds 4-7 on Saturday.