Virtual 2020 NFL Draft shatters viewership record

The virtual NFL draft was a big hit with football fans and set a record for the draft with 15.6 million viewers, the league announced Friday.

According to the NFL, the number of viewers who tuned in to Thursday’s first round represented a 37 percent leap over 2019. It also easily broke the previous high of 12.4 million in 2014.

The draft coverage across ABC, ESPN and NFL Network was a virtual production due to the coronavirus outbreak that caused the league to scrap the planned festivities on the Las Vegas Strip.

NFL Draft
Rich Eisen, Deion Sanders, Kevin Hart, Michael Strahan and Tom Brady talk about the 2020 NFL football draft. (NFL/Handout Photo via USA TODAY Sports)

Commissioner Roger Goodell announced the selections from his basement and players were in their homes as they learned they were being drafted. That was a different scene compared to the typical one where players come out on stage and perhaps exchange a bear hug with Goodell after he calls their names.

“The theme of hope is always prevalent in the NFL, especially with regard to the Draft,” Goodell said in a statement released Friday. “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.”

The draft continues Friday night with the second and third rounds. The final four rounds are slated for Saturday.

Ohio was tuned in as the top three ratings nationwide were turned in by cities in the state: Columbus (16.7), Cleveland (15.9) and Cincinnati (15.6). The Bengals had the first overall pick and selected LSU quarterback Joe Burrow. Ohio State products Chase Young and Jeff Okudah were selected with the next two picks.

Philadelphia (15.1) and Kansas City (14.3) rounded out the top five cities for viewership.

The NFL also said that “Draft-A-Thon LIVE,” a fundraising campaign for COVID-19 relief efforts, attracted more than 7 million viewers.

–Field Level Media (@FieldLevelMedia)