It’s always jarring to see how many people would rather tune in to the NFL draft than playoff games in other sports. But it happens routinely.
There might be no better measure of how far the NFL is ahead of every other sports league in popularity than how many people watch its draft.
The NFL announced that the 2019 draft set records as the most-watched ever, beating the old record set ... last year. The league said that across Nielsen-measured channels, all of its draft telecasts reached more than 47.5 million viewers over three days, up 5 percent from last year.
And this wasn’t considered a stellar draft, as far as the star power of the prospects was concerned.
NFL draft ratings way up
The past few years the NFL didn’t have a tough time selling the draft. There were a lot of exciting quarterbacks and fantastic skill-position players like Saquon Barkley. This year’s draft had intrigue and Kyler Murray at the top, but the top of the draft was filled with good players who won’t matter to anyone’s fantasy teams, let’s say.
It didn’t matter. People tuned in. The NFL said there was an average of 6.1 million viewers across NFL, ESPN and ABC TV and digital channels.
The NFL draft, according to the league, had a total rating of 3.9. When the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers played Game 6 last week, it was the highest-rated first-round NBA playoff game in two years, and that was a 3.0.
The NFL has to be especially thrilled at its Day 2 ratings. For Rounds 2 and 3, on a Friday night, the ratings took off. ESPN PR said ABC averaged 2.6 million viewers (up 31 percent from 2018), ESPN/ESPN2 averaged 2.1 million (up 20 percent) and all of the broadcasts drew an average of 5.7 million fans, a 19 percent increase from last year. It was the biggest Day 2 audience ever, ESPN said.
Hey, remember when people were saying the NFL had a ratings crisis?
Live attendance for the draft shatters records
The draft is fun. There are quirky stories, every fan base feels its team got better, big-name college players have their pro dreams realized and there are always surprises. Still, it’s hard to believe more people would tune in to see Roger Goodell read names off a card than watch Kevin Durant drop 50 points on the Clippers.
The attendance for the draft also shattered records. The NFL said more than 600,000 fans were in the streets of Nashville for the draft, far surpassing the old record of 250,000 in Philadelphia. Las Vegas should be a fun draft destination next year.
The NFL has turned its draft into a spectacle. It stretched the event over three days. It began moving locations, inviting more fans to attend. It has broadened how many networks air it, including a larger presence for ABC this year.
And given how fans can’t get enough, the NFL will surely figure out ways to expand the event even more.
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