7 Million Watched First Round of NFL Draft

For someone who is not a diehard NFL fan, it would be extremely tough to explain why seven million people would tune into an event in which fairly unknown names get called one-by-one. After all, almost no one cares when the NHL, NBA or MLB drafts come around.

The NFL draft is a special animal though.

On Thursday evening, more than seven million people turned the channel to ESPN to watch their coverage of the NFL’s first round. Yes that is correct, seven million people tuned in just to watch NFL commissioner Roger Goodell slowly announce 32 names.

To put some perspective on it, the coverage of round one on Thursday got twice as many viewers as Game 6 of the NBA’s first-round series between the Los Angeles Clippers and the San Antonio Spurs, six times the viewers as the beginning of the NHL’s conference semifinal round, and 10 times the viewership of a late night episode of American Dad.

To put it kindly, the NFL draft kicked Thursday night TV’s butt.

Dante Fowler Jr. was drafted No. 3 overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Dante Fowler Jr. was drafted No. 3 overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Despite this success in comparison to outside ratings, there is something for the NFL to be concerned about. Ratings for the 2015 NFL draft were down more than 25 percent compared to 2014. This is a major decline in viewership and has to have the NFL worried about the long-term growth of the draft.

Last year, a record 9.9 million people tuned into the draft and it had been slowly growing each year before last season’s draft.

The big reason for last year’s success with the draft was an abundance of drama surrounding the first round. There was a lot of hype surrounding quarterback Johnny Manziel and there was a lot of doubt about who would end up where. That led to a significant increase in viewership.

This year’s version of the draft was a little less dramatic. We knew who the first picks were going to be and, barring a radical trade, we had a general idea about who would end up where. The unknown factor was not as prominent in the 2015 draft as it was in 2014.

Nonetheless, it has to be concerning for the NFL that ratings fell so sharply, even if was the third-highest rated draft day ever. After years of growth, it has to be a bit of a shock to see ratings decline.

One must wonder if the NFL’s decision to make the draft a three-day event isn’t starting to have negative ramifications. They saw continuous rating growth throughout the years of the two-day weekend draft and they assumed that would continue when they added a day. Now, the growth has stifled.

Did the third day impact viewership negatively?

It’s hard to tell at this point, but if ratings decline next year, it will certainly start to become worrisome for the NFL. The draft has become a landmark event for them, similar to the Super Bowl. They need it to continue being the spectacular event it is to hold their dominance over the sports world.

Follow Justin on Twitter @RuoffonSports

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