2020 NFL Draft Was the Most Watched in League's History

Having gone down in history as the first event of its kind held remotely, the 2020 NFL Draft has also entered the annals as the most-watched ever.

According to league figures, the draft drew in an average audience of over 55 million viewers over the three-day event across Nielsen-measured channels, an increase of 16 percent year-on-year.

Across ABC, ESPN, NFL Network, and ESPN Deportes the NFL Draft recorded an average of 8.4 million viewers across the three days, surpassing last year's benchmark by 35 percent.

Originally scheduled to be held in Las Vegas, the novel coronavirus outbreak forced the NFL to hold its draft remotely to adhere to strict social distancing measures in place. That meant that on Thursday night league commissioner Roger Goodell introduced the first round picks from the basement of his home in Westchester County, New York, while the top 58 prospects and the 32 teams appeared on TV via conference call.

Concerns over internet issues and technical faux pas proved largely unfounded as the draft went as smoothly as possible, save for CeeDee Lamb having one of his cell phones wrestled off him by his girlfriend while on the phone with the Dallas Cowboys and for the background in Mike Vrabel's home raising some eyebrows.

Generally, however, the draft was a success, with viewers marvelling at the mansion occupied by Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury and New England Patriots boss Bill Belichick being briefly replaced in his draft room by his dog.

If the draft was a roaring success among fans, the same can be said about the NFL.

The first round alone was watched by an average audience of over 15.6 million across ABC, ESPN, NFL Network, and ESPN Deportes, dwarfing the previous high of 12.4 million viewers set in 2014.

Coverage of the first round on Thursday night peaked between 8:45 p.m. ET and 9 p.m. ET with 19.6 million viewers.

An average of over 8.2 million viewers watched the second and third round on Friday, a 40 percent increase from the previous year, while the final four rounds averaged 4.2 million viewers, a 32 percent rise from 12 months ago.

"I couldn't be more proud of the efforts and collaboration of our clubs, league personnel, and our partners to conduct an efficient draft and share an unforgettable experience with millions of fans during these uncertain times," Goodell said in a statement.

"This draft is the latest chapter in the NFL's storied history of lifting the spirit of America and unifying people."

The draft dominated attention in Ohio, with Columbus, Cleveland and Cincinnati the top three markets across all networks in the country.

It is not surprising to see the Buckeye State top the audience charts. Cincinnati held the first overall pick and used it to select LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, who was born in Iowa but grew up in Ohio.

Ohio State duo Chase Young and Jeffrey Okudah, meanwhile, were the second and third overall pick. Philadelphia, Kansas City and Jacksonville were the three markets with the next-biggest audiences, while Atlanta, Charlotte, Denver, Nashville and Milwaukee rounded up the top-10.

In addition to the telecast of the 2020 NFL Draft, an average of over 5.4 million daily viewers watched the so-called NFL "Draft-A-Thon" a campaign aimed at raising much-needed funds for COVID-19 relief efforts.

Through the league, teams, players and various other donations combined, the NFL has donated a combined $100 million to coronavirus relief efforts so far.

"We were pleased that this unique draft helped shine a light on today's true heroes—the healthcare workers, first responders, and countless others on the front lines in the battle against COVID-19," Goodell said.

Roger Goodell, NFL
In this still image from video provided by the NFL, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks from his home in Bronxville, New York during the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft on April 23. NFL/Getty