Ratings for 1st-Round of NFL Draft will almost certainly be down in 2015


We wouldn’t encourage anyone to make an actual wager based on our predictions but we think it’s a pretty safe bet that average viewership for the first-round of the NFL Draft will fall this year.

The viewership for the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft set records for both ESPN and NFL network and by a fairly healthy margin. It’s not in the table below but ESPN’s previous best was 7.29 million in 2010 – when Sam Bradford and Ndamukong Suh went 1-2:

First Round NFL Draft TV viewing averages (in millions) ESPN NFLN Total
Thursday, May 8, 14 9.94 2.43 12.37
Thursday, April 25, 13 6.20 1.52 7.72
Thursday, April 26, 12 6.66 1.44 8.10

The NFL Draft is a made-for-TV event, but last year’s telecast was made more dramatic by Johnny Manziel. Where will he go in the draft? Will he do the “money dance”? He’s falling! Will the Dallas Cowboys pick him up?

The NFL (and ESPN & NFL Network) couldn’t have scripted it better if they tried. But such a confluence of events is rare and Neither Jameis Winston nor Marcus Mariota are attending the NFL Draft in Chicago.

Our guess is that viewership around the first few picks will be relatively steady with previous years but that after that there won’t be the same sort of drama that drew more folks than usual to their TVs last year and that average viewership will fall as a result.

Last year’s draft peaked between 9:45-10:00p when the Dallas Cowboys picked at number 16. Typically the peak is much earlier.

We hope we’re wrong and the numbers are up this year. That’s the surest route to avoiding narratives on the waning popularity of  NFL football due to <insert your favorite reason here>. If the ratings are down <favorite reason > might be a contributing factor, but unless they’re down significantly from 2013 or you thought the NFL’s popularity was waning in 2011-2013 because those years the NFL Draft had fewer viewers than in 2010, we’d discourage reading anything into it.

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