NFL Draft's 1st-Round Coverage Nets ESPN and NFL Network Insane Ratings

Gabe Zaldivar@gabezalPop Culture Lead WriterMay 9, 2014

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As if the months of speculation and countless hours of analysis didn't clue you in, NFL fans rather enjoy the NFL draft. For the naysayers, we now have the TV ratings to prove it. 

Times Union's Pete Dougherty reports that both ESPN and NFL Network had a fantastic night providing coverage of an event fans have been waiting months to enjoy: 

ESPN coverage of the NFL Draft—held two weeks later than usual—received a 6.8 overnight Nielsen rating, a 47 percent increase from last year (4.6) and nearly triple of any other sports programming aired Thursday night.

It is the highest rating since the draft went to prime time in 2010 and best overall since ratings were first recorded in 1998.

NFL Network coverage of the draft drew a 1.9 rating, a 58 percent increase from a year ago (1.2).

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 08:  Johnny Manziel of the Texas A&M Aggies takes the stage after he was picked #22 overall by the Cleveland Browns during the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on May 8, 2014 in New York City.  (Photo by Elsa/G
Elsa/Getty Images

Dougherty also reports that ESPN2 had a nice night providing an alternative to football programming, taking in a 2.6 for the Nets-Heat game and a 2.7 for the Blazers-Spurs game, which garnered the network a record high for NBA playoff programming. 

Business Insider's Cork Gaines adds some perspective. For the moment, it seems sports fans are far more interested in watching amateurs turn pro than they are in watching NBA or MLB playoff games. 

Gaines reports there was just one game during the 2013 NBA postseason (outside of the Finals) that received a higher rating than the 2014 NFL draft, and that was Game 7 of the Heat-Pacers series (7.1). 

David J. Phillip/Associated Press

As for the most recent MLB playoffs, Gaines has this to say: "In last year's Major League Baseball playoffs, there were 32 games prior to the World Series. The highest-rated game was Game 6 of the American League Championship Series (Red Sox-Tigers) which posted a 5.5 rating."

The caveat is that the NBA and MLB can still hold their respective heads high when it comes to championship fare, as the averages for the NBA Finals (10.4) and World Series (9.0) best the draft. 

It's a small consolation when you consider the draft comes after months of incessant analysis and television coverage. Those so inclined can pore over speculation on the Internet well ahead of the actual draft. 

Instead of yielding a weary fanbase, the coverage seems to have piqued fans' interest to record highs. The fact that the draft is now held two weeks later only served to heighten intrigue. 

CBSSports.com's Will Brinson has some thoughts on what made the 2014 iteration such a hit with fans: 

It didn't hurt, of course, that we had an exciting first round. Or that Johnny Manziel fell far in the first round, causing people to tune in. Tuning in quickly turned into "praying for a metaphorical car crash" when the Cowboys were on the clock with Manziel sitting in the green room, as evidenced by a spike in ratings around 9:45.

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 08:  A fan reacts as Johnny Manziel of the Texas A&M Aggies is picked #22 overall by the Cleveland Browns during the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on May 8, 2014 in New York City.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Image
Elsa/Getty Images

With a possible decision to move the draft back even further, you have a recipe for the event to be even more of a focal point on the sports calendar. 

As ProFootballTalk's Mike Wilkening notes, "the draft could begin on either the second or third full week of May, the latter of which could put the draft’s end date on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend in 2015."

Looking ahead to next year, we can envision a scenario in which the 2015 draft outperforms the 2014 version.

It's no secret that the NFL drives interest in the sports world, as evidenced by the coverage given to the league year-round. 

Fans get college football games, the Senior Bowl, the combine, interviews and Internet coverage to get to know each and every player on the board at the draft. It's that familiarity that makes the event so compelling. 

Don't expect the boulder to stop rolling down the hill. The draft will only get bigger, the coverage more grand and the fans more prolific. 

We hope you enjoy the draft, because you will only see more of it from here on out. 

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