NFL, ESPN Get Some Bad News About Draft Viewership


Heading into the 2019 NFL Draft, it seemed “more probable than not” that Kyler Murray was going to be the first overall pick.

That differs from last year when there was more uncertainty with the first overall pick, which ended up being Baker Mayfield by the Browns.

The lack of possibilities with this year’s draft seemed to affect the ratings for the draft as well, as viewership dropped two percent compared to last year.

In 2018, the draft made its broadcast network debut as the first round aired on Fox in addition to ESPN and the NFL Network.

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This year, ESPN and NFL Network carried over coverage from last year, but ABC replaced Fox as the broadcast network to cover the draft.

While ABC gained viewers from what Fox had last year, both ESPN and NFL Network lost viewership.

ESPN lost nearly 500,000 viewers for the first round compared to last year. The tweets below show 2018 viewership followed by 2019 viewership.

Since the difference in viewership between the two years is just over 200,000 people, it’s likely that there was a shift in viewers from one network to another, specifically from ESPN and NFL Network to ABC.

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The ABC crew of ESPN’s College GameDay could have attracted more viewers than the usual hosts and analysts that the cable networks trot out each year.

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ESPN still came out with the most viewers of any network and the draft, as a whole, dominated everything else on television Thursday night.

The 11.1 million audience for the draft ranks as the third most in viewership history, trailing 2014 (12.4) and 2018 (11.2).

The 2014 NFL Draft is best remembered for Johnny Manziel sliding to the Browns at No. 22. The anticipation for when Manziel would be drafted likely played a factor in it being the most-watched draft ever.

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Ross Kelly has been a sportswriter since 2009.
Ross Kelly has been a sportswriter since 2009 and previously worked for ESPN, CBS and STATS Inc. A native of Louisiana, Ross now resides in Houston.
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