UPDATE: In updated national estimates from Nielsen, Thursday’s first round of the NFL Draft averaged 9.94 million viewers on ESPN — a 60% gain vs. last year (6.20 million) and by far the most-watched such event in the 35 years that the net has carried it.  Here are the last five years on ESPN:

Year US Rating Viewers
2014 6.1 9,943,000
2013 4.1 6,199,000
2012 4.4 6,661,000
2011 3.8 6,003,000
2010 4.6 7,290,000




The NFL Draft, held two weeks later than usual this year, delivered record ratings Thursday on ESPN — contributing to a season-low score for the night’s top show, CBS comedy “The Big Bang Theory.”

Total-viewer estimates won’t be available until later Friday, but the National Football League draft from New York averaged a 6.8 overnight household rating on ESPN from 8 to 11:30 p.m., and a 1.9 rating on NFL Network. The combined 8.7 rating/15 share for the draft on the two networks was a big 50% improvement over last year’s 5.8/10.

Among all programs Thursday night, only CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory” (9.9) rated higher than the NFL Draft.

The 6.8 rating for ESPN is up 48% from last year’s 4.6 rating. By comparison, last year only one NBA Playoff game prior to the NBA Finals (Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals between Miami and Indiana) earned a higher rating (7.1) than what ESPN did last night. And no Major League Baseball game prior to the World Series rated higher (the peak pre-World Series overnight rating was a 5.5 for the final game in the Boston-Detroit series).

In the nationals last year, the NFL Draft combined to pull a 3.6 rating/10 share in adults 18-49 and 7.72 million viewers overall (a 2.9 and 6.2 million on ESPN and 0.7 and 1.52 million on NFLN).

Interest was especially high in the NFL Draft this year due to the popularity of former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, the brash and electric player known as “Johnny Football.” And the suspense lasted well into the night, as he wasn’t selected until late in the 10 p.m. ET hour (by the Cleveland Browns with the 22nd overall pick).

Cleveland was the top-rated market tracked by Nielsen, with a 13.0 local rating.

CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory” remained the night’s No. 1 entertainment telecast with a 3.7 rating/13 share in adults 18-49 and 14.2 million viewers overall, according to preliminary national estimates from Nielsen. Still, this is a rather sharp 18% decline from its national score of last week (4.5) and represents a season low for the megahit. The rest of the night held close to last week’s numbers, with “The Millers” doing a 2.0/6 in 18-49 and 9.2 million viewers overall, followed by “Two and a Half Men” in its season finale (2.1/6 in 18-49, 8.5 million viewers overall), “Bad Teacher” (1.3/4 in 18-49, 5.8 million viewers overall) and “Elementary” (1.5/4 in 18-49, 7.5 million viewers overall).

CBS was the No. 1 broadcaster on the night in 18-49, 25-54 and total viewers.

ABC followed a “Grey’s Anatomy” repeat (0.6/2 in 18-49, 2.9 million viewers overall) with an original episode (2.3/7 in 18-49, 7.5 million viewers overall), which was down about 10% from last week when a return appearance by former cast member Isiaiah Washington boosted the numbers. And at 10, “Black Box” dropped some more in its third week (1.1/3 in 18-49, 4.4 million viewers overall).

Fox’s “Hell’s Kitchen” (1.5/5 in 18-49, 4.2 million viewers overall) was down a tenth, but “American Idol” (1.6/5 in 18-49, 7.1 million viewers overall) and “Surviving Jack” (1.2/3 in 18-49, 4.1 million viewers overall) were up a little. “Jack” was canceled by Fox on Thursday.

At NBC, “Hollywood Game Night” kept the lights on at 8 (0.9/3 in 18-49, 3.3 million viewers overall), and was followed by the lightly watched “American Comedy Awards” (1.0/3 in 18-49, 3.1 million viewers overall). Last week, the Peacock fared much better with the inaugural “iHeartRadio Music Awards” (1.7 in 18-49, 5.5 million total viewers).

CW’s “The Vampire Diaries” (0.7/2 in 18-49, 1.6 million viewers overall) was down a tick to match its low, but “Reign” held steady behind it (0.5/2 in 18-49, 1.5 million viewers overall).

Preliminary 18-49 averages for the night: CBS, 2.0/6; Fox, 1.5/5; ABC, 1.3/4; Univision, 1.2/4; NBC, 1.0/3; CW and Telemundo, 0.4/1.

In total viewers: CBS, 8.8 million; ABC and Fox, 4.9 million; NBC, 3.2 million; Univision, 2.9 million; CW, 1.5 million; Telemundo, 1.0 million.