Last Thursday’s first round of the NFL Draft received its largest audience since 2014, totaling 11.214 million viewers. Ratings success continued into the weekend with ESPN recording its most-viewed day-three of the NFL draft ever.
2018 marked the first time the entire NFL Draft was broadcast on network television. NFL Network’s coverage of the first three rounds was simulcast on Fox, with ESPN’s coverage of rounds 4-7 simulcast on ABC.
ESPN has been broadcasting the NFL Draft since 1980, being the sole network to do so until they were joined by NFL Network in 2006. According to John Ourand, with FOX offering a third option to watch the draft, ESPN still led all networks with 5.336 million viewers for the first round telecast. For its first year broadcasting the draft, FOX garnered 3.736 million viewers, with NFL Network coming in third at 2.005 million viewers. On ESPN2, the College Gameday crew reacted to, and offered insight on first-round draft selections, which drew only 124,000 viewers.
Fox was only announced as a destination to view the NFL Draft this past February. Expect the first-round gap between FOX and ESPN to close as fans get used to FOX covering the draft in the future.
While ESPN’s draft broadcast numbers were down for the first three rounds due to the addition of Fox as a viewing option for consumers, their coverage of rounds 4-7 were the highest since the NFL went to a three-day format in 2010. According to Nielsen, ESPN and ABC combined for an audience of 2,249,000 viewers on Saturday.
The NFL Draft viewership numbers are expected to increase by as much as eight percent for ESPN once Nielsen includes all streaming audiences in measuring the Nielsen Total Audience number.