Thursday night’s highly-anticipated opening round of the 2021 NFL Draft brought in some pretty massive ratings.
Averaging 12.52 million viewers across ESPN, ABC and NFL Network last night, the 2021 first-round coverage claimed the second-highest TV ratings in draft history. Last night’s events in Cleveland come in at second behind only last year’s all-time record of 15.26 million average viewers.
In 2020, the draft coverage was a fix for sports fans who were being deprived of live content due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year’s in-person draft events saw an 18% decrease in viewership compared to last year’s all-virtual selections.
While 2020 may still have the ratings edge, both of these events blew the rest of the field out of the water. According to Sports Media Watch, the only other time NFL Draft coverage has cracked the 12 million mark was back in 2014 when collegiate superstar Johnny Manziel fell back to the Cleveland Browns at No. 22.
Source: Draft will be down a little in overnights but not much. It will be up decisively over 2019. Will crush the Oscars. Probably second highest first round ever. It looks like a big win for the league.
— John Ourand (@Ourand_SBJ) April 30, 2021
This year’s draft also beat out last week’s Academy Awards (10.4 million) and trailed only three sports related broadcasts since 2019: Game 6 of last year’s World Series (12.70 million), Gonzaga and UCLA’s wild Final Four matchup (14.94 million) and the Gonzaga-Baylor championship game (16.92), per SMW.
These rating certainly speak to the overwhelming talent present in this year’s draft pool. With five high-profile quarterbacks and a slew of other dynamic athletes, people from all over were tuning in to see where they’d end up.