How enormous is the NFL?
Like the State of the Union, the NFL Draft is too big for one channel. Add up the ratings of last night’s two NBA playoff games, including one featuring the league’s marquee player, and the numbers for two NHL playoff games, including an Original Six matchup decided in overtime, and it still doesn’t equal the monster overnight rating the 79th annual NFL Player Selection Meeting achieved on ESPN and the NFL Network. Coverage of the annual event drew a 6.8 for ESPN and a 1.9 for the NFL Network.
Overnights:ESPN NFL Draft: 6.8ESPN2 Blazers-Spurs 2.7ESPN2 Heat-Nets: 2.6NFL Net NFL Draft: 1.9NBCSN Bos-Montreal 1.2NBCSN Ana-LA: 0.7
— John Ourand (@Ourand_SBJ) May 9, 2014
By way of comparison, this week NCIS garnered a 2.3, American Idol drew a 1.7, and Survivor boasted a 2.4. ESPN attained first-round draft ratings of 4.6, 4.8, and 4.3 the last three years, so the 6.8 number obliterates the viewership of previous broadcasts.
Those millions of viewers glimpsed John Gruden gush for several hours over Johnny Manziel, Mel Kiper sternly rebuke Gruden for such cheerleading, Ray Lewis prove why we liked him better as a draft pick on the stage than a draft picker in the booth, and Suzy Kolber ask 21-year-old newly-made millionaires about their moms.
No doubt the prolonged drama surrounding which team would land the charismatic Johnny Manziel helped with last night’s viewership. Cleveland, involved in the most switcheroos and surprises yesterday, posted a 13.0 rating. Houston, whose intrigue ended within the first few minutes when the Texans selected Jadeveon Clowney with the first pick, followed with the second highest percentage of sets tuned in at 11.6.
ESPN enjoyed its highest draft rating since it started airing the selection process more than three decades ago. When the network asked Pete Rozelle for permission to broadcast the draft in 1980, a perplexed commissioner gave his blessing but doubted its interest to viewers.
The viewership for days two and three of the draft, which surely will decline from night one’s monster number, looks also to improve on previous years. The suspense over whether a team takes Michael Sam, seeking to be the NFL’s first openly gay player, will likely inflate interest.