The NFL Draft gave fans some much-desired sports programming on Thursday night, and viewers watched in record numbers.
The opening night of this year’s draft, which was held virtually because of coronavirus, drew an average of 15.6 million viewers across ABC, ESPN, NFL Network, ESPN Deportes and digital channels. That number was up roughly 37% from last year and is a new record for the event.
The previous ratings high belonged to the opening night of the 2014 draft, which nabbed 12.4 million viewers.
It’s no surprise that this year’s draft brought in huge TV numbers, because millions of people are stuck at home, starving for sports content.
The coronavirus outbreak caused the sports world to be put on hold last month, leading to leagues like the NBA and Major League Baseball to suspend or delay their seasons. The outbreak also drastically altered the draft — one of the biggest events of the NFL’s year.
During Thursday night’s first round, players, coaches, general managers, analysts and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell broadcast from their homes. To pull this off, ESPN and NFL Network’s production was supported by a vast amount of technology, including more than 100 camera feeds.
The NFL Draft represents the second ratings record for ESPN this week.
The premiere of “The Last Dance,” the network’s highly anticipated docuseries about Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls NBA dynasty, averaged 6.1 million viewers on Sunday night.
That made “The Last Dance” the most-viewed ESPN documentary ever.