With the sports world largely on hold due to the coronavirus (COVID-19), anticipation for the 2020 NFL Draft was at an all-time high.
The ratings reflected as much.
Averaging 15.6 million viewers, Thursday night's first round set a new ratings record for the first round of the draft. The broadcast, which aired across ABC, ESPN, NFL Network, ESPN Deportes, and digital channels broke the previous first-round high of 12.4 million viewers, which was set in 2014.
This year's broadcast -- which marked the second year that The Walt Disney Company and NFL Network combined for a multi-network presentation -- grew by 37 percent from the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft, which averaged 11.4 million viewers. Thursday night's broadcast peaked with 19.6 million viewers between 8:45 p.m. and 9 p.m. ET.
“The theme of hope is always prevalent in the NFL, especially with regard to the Draft,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. “In 2020, that’s especially true, as we help honor healthcare workers, first responders, and others on the front lines of the battle with COVID-19 while giving our fans something to cheer about as we celebrate the next generation of NFL stars. We are thrilled so many people were able to join us last night and we thank them for helping support the Draft-A-Thon.”
Per ESPN, the top metered markets for across Thursday night's broadcast were:
- Columbus, Ohio (16.7)
- Cleveland (15.9)
- Cincinnati (15.6)
- Philadelphia (15.1)
- Kansas City (14.3)
- Jacksonville (14.1)
- Atlanta (14.0)
- Charlotte (13.1)
- Denver (12.8)
- Nashville and Milwaukee (12.7)
As was reflected in the ratings, Thursday night's first round included plenty of Ohio flavor. In addition to the Cincinnati Bengals selecting Athens native Joe Burrow with the No. 1 overall pick, three Ohio State players were selected in the first round -- including two in the top 3 picks -- while the Browns laid claim to the No. 10 pick, which they used to select Alabama offensive lineman Jedrick Wills Jr.
Coverage of the 2020 NFL Draft will continue on Friday night with the second and third rounds at 7 p.m. ET.