UPDATED with latest numbers: Coverage of the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft on Thursday set a record for the event, a trend that continued all three days.
Nielsen reported that each day of established new highs for the draft, which aired its first round in primetime Thursday in simulcasts on ABC, ESPN and NFL Network, averaging an audience of 15.6 million viewers, up 37% from last year.
Helped by sports fans starved for action amid the coronavirus shutdown, the Thursday total broke the previous record for the first night of the draft, which had been 12.4 million viewers in 2014.
On Friday, rounds 2-3 scored more than 8.2 million viewers (up 40% over 2019), and on Saturday more than 4.2 million viewers watched rounds 4-7 (up 32%). NFL Network and the ESPN networks handled the Friday-Saturday coverage.
Thursday’s ABC numbers were up 37% over last year’s 11.4 million total viewers, with coverage of the virtual event peaking between 8:45-9 PM ET with 19.6 million viewers who watched Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow go to the Cincinnati Bengals with the No. 1 pick.
The draft Thursday drew a preliminary 1.6 rating in the adults 18-49 demographic and 6.14 million viewers on ABC, which carried one of two live simulcasts originating from ESPN’s Bristol studios, and conducted mostly from the basement of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s Westchester County, NY home.
ABC’s three-hour broadcast was easily the top-rated and most-watched program in primetime Thursday, on a night when NBC wrapped four of its shows, including the second series finale of Will & Grace (0.5, 3.13M).
The finale of the series marked the NBC comedy’s most-watched show in more than a year. The show wrapped its second run — spanning 11 seasons and 246 episodes in all, first from 1998-2006 and resuming in 2017 — off a tenth in the demo from last week but on par with its season averages.
Will & Grace was preceded by the Season 6 ender for Superstore (0.7, 3.10M), back from its break to grow a tenth in the demo and more than 1 million viewers from last year’s finale; and Brooklyn Nine-Nine (0.6, 2.32M), even in the demo from last week but up a tenth from its previous finale.
After a Will & Graceful Goodbye special (0.5, 2.94M) that kept most of the crowd from the finale, NBC wrapped up the record 21st season of its Law & Order: SVU (0.7, 3.68M), which was even with last week and last year’s season capper.
ABC won the night overall in both metrics; NBC and CBS tied for No. 2 in the demo, while CBS was second in viewers.
Elsewhere in primetime last night, CBS aired fresh episodes of Man With a Plan (0.6, 5.74M) and Broke (0.6, 5.82M), off a tenth from last week, and Tommy (0.5, 4.64M), which was even. Fox offered a new Last Man Standing (0.6, 4.07M) which was also even.
The CW aired new episodes of Katy Keene (0.1, 500,000) and In the Dark (0.1, 400K), which remained steady.