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Tuesday, July 23, 2024
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NBA Draft Ratings Stay Strong Despite Lack of Star Power

  • France had a native drafted No. 1 overall in back-to-back years.
  • The NBA split the draft into two nights for the first time. 
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

No Wemby, no problem. 

Despite a lack of star power at the top of the 2024 NBA draft, this year’s ratings surpassed last year’s two-round broadcast.

According to Sports Media Watch, the first round of the draft, which aired Wednesday, averaged 4.4 million viewers across ABC and ESPN, peaking at 5.5 million. It’s an 18% increase from the 2023 draft, which averaged 3.7 million viewers. 

But context is key: 4.9 million viewers watched the first round of the 2023 draft, per SMW, before many tuned out for the second round. 

The old format of the draft would extend into early Friday morning while Wednesday’s first round concluded shortly after 11:15 p.m., an hour earlier than before. 

The 2023 draft was highlighted by the Spurs’ drafting Victor Wembanyama first overall. The 7-foot-4 French center was the most-hyped prospect since the drafting of LeBron James 20 years earlier. This year it was another Frenchman going first overall in Zaccharie Risacher, but he didn’t have a fraction of the hype Wembanyama did going into the draft. 

With the NBA splitting the draft into two days, it will be interesting to see what the ratings were for Thursday’s second round, given the lack of precedent and factors working against it. The second round’s start time was moved out of Thursday prime time to 4 p.m. to accommodate the presidential debate later that evening. While the first round didn’t have the star power of 2023, the second round saw the selection of Bronny James, the eldest son of LeBron, 55th overall to the Lakers, putting them one step closer to being the league’s first active father-son duo. 

While not a perfect comparison, the second and third day of the 2024 NFL draft averaged 3.3 and 5.5 million reviewers, respectively, both roughly 33% decreases from the prior draft. It’s hard to see the NBA coming anywhere close to those numbers—among many other factors, NFL second-rounders routinely become stars, while NBA second-rounders often never appear in a single game.

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