Round 1 of the 2020 NFL Draft may have had its quirks, but that didn’t stop viewers from turning out in record numbers. According to a press release shared by NFL Communications, Thursday night’s ESPN broadcast, which was also simulcast by ABC, NFL Network and ESPN Deportes, drew an average viewership of 15.6 million, easily eclipsing the previous high of 12.4 million set in 2014. The lack of viewing alternatives during the Coronavirus was likely a major factor in the draft’s record ratings, which constituted a 37% increase from last year’s audience (11.4 million).
Per the NFL’s press release, viewership spiked from 8:45-9 PM ET with 19.6 million tuning in at that time. The draft’s highest ratings came from Columbus (16.7), Cleveland (15.9) and Cincinnati (15.6). Those markets’ interest should come as no surprise as Ohio had its fingerprints all over the first round. Ohio State alums Chase Young, Jeff Okudah and Damon Arnette were among those chosen in Round 1 while native son Joe Burrow—an Athens product who enjoyed a cup of coffee with the Buckeyes before transferring to LSU—went to Cincinnati with the top overall pick. Other markets with high viewership included Philadelphia (15.1), Kansas City (14.3), Jacksonville (14.1) and Atlanta (14.0).
With high-profile players like Heisman finalist Jalen Hurts and Wisconsin standout Jonathan Taylor still waiting to hear their names called, the NFL should see plenty more eyes Friday night as ESPN kicks off its coverage for Rounds 2-3 beginning at 7 PM ET.