• Loading stock data...
Saturday, May 18, 2024

First Round of 2024 NFL Draft Averages 12.1M Viewers

  • TV/digital viewership for QB-heavy draft up 6% from last year.
  • Unduplicated audience of 34.3 million is highest since 2021.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell addresses the crowd with Eminem and Detroit Lions Jared Goff, Amon-Ra St. Brown and Aidan Hutchinson and Hall of Famers Calvin Johnson and Barry Sanders on the stage before Round 1 of the NFL draft on April 25, 2024.
Eric Seals/DFP / USA TODAY NETWORK

The NFL and TV partners ESPN and NFL Network know quarterback-driven NFL drafts spell TV ratings gold. 

That dynamic played out again Thursday night as a record six quarterbacks were selected in the first 12 picks of the 2024 NFL draft. With NFL franchises going QB-crazy, Thursday’s first-round coverage drew an average audience of 12.1 million across ABC, ESPN, and the NFL’s linear and digital platforms. That’s higher than the average viewership for the 2023 NBA Finals, World Series, and Stanley Cup Final, and up 6% for the comparable 11.4 million during the ‘23 draft. The total unduplicated audience of 34.3 million viewers was the highest since 2021.

Meanwhile, over 275,000 fans showed up during day one in Detroit to support their teams, shattering the previous record of 200,000 for the 2019 draft in Nashville.

Contrary to popular belief, ESPN pulls bigger TV audiences during draft week than Super Bowl week, according to executive producer Seth Markman. That’s because fans of all 32 NFL franchises have skin in the game during the three-day draft compared to only two fanbases for the Big Game.

“During Super Bowl week, there’s only two teams, there’s only two fanbases left. If you root for one of the other 30 teams, you’re not that invested. But the draft is for everybody. It’s all 32 fanbases. It’s high theater; it’s reality TV,” says Markman, who oversees ESPN and sister Disney network ABC’s draft coverage.

“Seeing the kids, seeing their families, seeing their lives change in front of your eyes. To me, it’s this perfect storm of all the NFL fans. It’s almost the official start of next season.”

Ultimately, the TV appeal of the draft can be summed up in one word: hope, according to NFL Media executive producer Charlie Yook. During the draft, hope springs eternal, every team is 0-0, and any team can pick the next Patrick Mahomes or Tom Brady.

“The hope is a player comes in and changes the direction of a franchise. C.J. Stroud gets picked—and the Texans all of sudden become a playoff team. Brock Purdy is Mr. Irrelevant—and he’s playing in the Super Bowl,” Yook tells FOS. “Someone in this [year’s draft] will be a superstar or a Hall of Famer. And that’s what draws people into this event. Hope is a good thing.”

Goodell’s Best Idea: Day Off After Super Bowl

Roger Goodell actually might get crowds to cheer for him if he pulls this one off. During an interview with ESPN’s Pat McAfee on Friday, the NFL commissioner said he’s mulling the creation of an 18-game regular season that would culminate with a national holiday the day after the Super Bowl.

Here’s how Goodell’s idea for a Super Bowl President’s Day weekend would work: 18 regular-season games and two preseason games, compared to the current 17 regular-season and three preseason games. That would include a second bye week, extending the regular season by one week. Which means the Super Bowl would be played on the Sunday night before President’s Day, a national holiday. “And then you have Monday off,” Goodell noted.

Of course, we’re a long way from this happening. Adding another regular-season game would have to be collectively bargained with the NFL Players Association. Some top players would vehemently oppose another game due to health concerns. But given the unpopularity of preseason games, it’s an idea that could have legs. What the NFL wants, it usually gets.

As Goodell told McAfee: “The reality is, I’d rather replace a preseason game with a regular-season game any day. That’s just picking quality. If we get to 18 and 2, that’s not an unreasonable thing.”

Meanwhile, Goodell made no apologies about invading the NBA’s longtime TV domain of Christmas Day games. Despite Yuletide falling on a Wednesday, the NFL will televise a doubleheader this Christmas Day against the NBA’s typical five-game TV slate.

“I don’t ask permission for that. We go where the fans are,” said Goodell.

Linkedin
Whatsapp
Copy Link
Link Copied
Link Copied

What to Read

February 5, 2019; Washington, DC, USA; The grounds of the Capitol Building empty out following the conclusion of President Donald Trump's State of the Union speech on February 5, 2019.

‘A Breathtaking Lobbying Campaign’: The NCAA’s Sophisticated Effort to Save Amateurism

Inside the carefully coordinated, multimillion-dollar operation to end the athletes’ rights era.

The WNBA Rookies Are Creating a New Celebrity Row

Major celebs like Kim Kardashian and Latto are showing up for the newbies.

World’s Best Golfer Arrested Attempting to Enter PGA Championship

Scottie Scheffler was arrested and released by Louisville police Friday morning.
Bally-Sports

DSG’s Path to Revival Faces Major Pushback from MLB, NBA, and NHL

Three major pro leagues raise further concerns about the bankrupt Bally Sports parent.
podcast thumbnail mobile
Front Office Sports Today

MLB, NBA, NHL Broadcasting Future Goes to Court

0:00

Featured Today

The WNBA Was Forged in Houston. Why Won’t It Go Back There?

Houston’s a perfect fit for expansion. The league isn’t considering it yet.
May 9, 2024; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Fever guard Caitlin Clark (22) stands with the team during the national anthem on Thursday, May 9, 2024, during the preseason game against the Atlanta Dream at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
May 12, 2024

‘Perfect Storm’: The Rise of Local WNBA Broadcast Pacts

With national attention reaching new heights, regional coverage could dictate the future.
Mar 29, 2023; New York, New York, USA; American actors and comedians Chris Rock (left) and Ben Stiller sit court side during the third quarter between the New York Knicks and the Miami Heat at Madison Square Garden.
May 11, 2024

The Haves and Have-Nots: How the Knicks’ Celebrity Row Works

Unwritten rules, an expectation of quid pro quo, and nothing is free.
May 6, 2023; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Red Bull driver Max Verstappen (1) of the Netherlands walks through the garage area following qualifying for the Miami Grand Prix at Miami International Autodrome.
May 5, 2024

Max Verstappen Is Unstoppable. Is That Hurting F1 With New American Fans?

Formula One could be facing an inevitable plateau in the United States.

Careers

Powered By

Careers in Sports

Looking for a new job? Check out these featured listings and search for openings all over the world.
Live Nation
Multiple - USA Careers
Adidas
Multiple - USA Careers
FanDuel
Multiple - USA Careers

NFL-Netflix Deal Could Set Stage for Mother of All Cash Grabs

The NFL’s leverage with streamers and broadcasters is only increasing.
May 6, 2024

NBC Turns to ‘Odd/Even’ Dual Announcer Pairings for U.S. Open

Two NBC broadcast teams will alternate holes at the 2024 U.S. Open.
Apr 5, 2024; Cleveland, OH, USA; Connecticut Huskies guard Paige Bueckers (5) reacts in the second quarter against the Iowa Hawkeyes in the semifinals of the Final Four of the womens 2024 NCAA Tournament at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.
May 14, 2024

‘Full Court Press’ Is ESPN’s Best Sports Doc in Years, and a Sequel Is Coming

Sources say Paige Bueckers is already being eyed as one of the stars.
Sponsored

Major League Rugby’s Vision for American Rugby

How Major League Rugby is leading the Rugby renaissance in the U.S.
exclusive
May 3, 2024

Patrick Beverley Banned (Then Unbanned) From Future ESPN Appearances

ESPN decided not to book Beverley on shows like ‘First Take’ and ‘Get Up,’ then rolled back the move.
May 2, 2024

Charles Barkley: the Richest Free Agent in Sports TV History?

If TNT loses its NBA media rights, the ‘Inside the NBA’ star has an out clause.
May 1, 2024

Phil Simms’ War on Football Clichés Will Continue After CBS Exit

CBS’s dropping Simms went over like a lead balloon in many quarters.
Feb 9, 2024; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Former quarterback Matt Ryan arrives before the Legends NFL Party.
April 29, 2024

Why Both Phil Simms and Boomer Esiason Are Out at CBS Sports

Matt Ryan, 38, is joining ‘The NFL Today,’ pushing out two mainstays.