The 2020 NFL Draft was unlike any other.
Over seven rounds, league commissioner Roger Goodell, the 32 NFL head coaches and almost 100 NFL prospects were broadcast virtually from home using over 600 camera feeds. Not only was this year’s affair unique in terms of its presentation, but it also smashed previous ratings records for the draft, benefiting, no doubt, from the lack of any live sports on television for the past few weeks.
Coverage of the draft’s three days across ABC, ESPN, NFL Network, ESPN Deportes, and digital channels scored an average 8.4 million viewers, comfortably beating the previous high, put up by last year’s draft, of 6.2 million by 35%. For further comparison, that represents a 53% increase over the 2018 draft, which also used to be the most-watched draft on average.
According to the league’s TV “reach” figure (which measures everyone who watched at least a couple minutes of coverage on any outlet), over 55 million people tuned in to the draft, an all-time high and a 16% increase over 2019.
Round 1 on Thursday, which kicked off with the unsurprising news that LSU quarterback Joe Burrow had been selected as the number one overall pick by the Cincinnati Bengals, scored an average audience of 16.5 million viewers, up 37% from a year ago. Around 8.2 million viewers watched rounds 2 and 3 on Friday, per the NFL, while 4.2 million viewers stuck around for round 4 through 7 on Saturday. That’s up 40% and 32% from the year before.
This year’s draft was the second straight in which Disney partnered with the NFL on a multi-network presentation.
According to the league, the top 10 metered markets across the country for all the networks were as follows: Columbus, Ohio (8.8), Cleveland (8.7), Philadelphia (8.6), Kansas City (8.5), Cincinnati (8.5), Atlanta (8.2), Jacksonville (8.1), Nashville (8.0), Milwaukee (7.8), and Denver/Baltimore (7.0).