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NFL Draft TV ratings: Round 1 of 2023 NFL Draft pulls in massive audience

The National Football League is responsible for a majority of the most-watched broadcasts in the United States every year. While NFL games and the Super Bowl draw the biggest audiences, the NFL Draft TV ratings are also always among the most-watched programs in the spring.

A year after the NFL and its broadcasting partners (ABC, ESPN) experienced some of their lowest ratings in years, many are hopeful the 2023 NFL Draft will deliver better results. While everyone is confident about who will be the first player drafted, there is a league-wide expectation that the 2023 draft will get wild beginning with the second overall pick.

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Even when television ratings for the NFL Draft are down, it’s still one of the most-watched shows on television on Thursday and Friday nights. Even when it’s competing against the NBA Playoffs and Stanley Cup Playoffs, a majority of the sports world tunes in for the NFL Draft.

Keeping all of that in mind, let’s take you through the recent history of TV ratings for the NFL Draft. We’ll provide additional updates for the 2023 viewership figures when they become available.

2023 NFL Draft TV ratings – Round 1 pulls in huge crowd

NFL: Carolina Panthers-Introductory Bryce Young Press Conference
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Round 1 of the 2023 NFL Draft averaged 11.29 million viewers across ABC, ESPN and NFL Network, per Joe Pompliano. It’s the third-largest audience for the NFL Draft since 2018, well surpassing the NFL Draft T ratings (10.03 million avg. viewers) from 2022.

Quarterbacks had a lot to do with the huge numbers the NFL pulled in for its biggest event of the offseason. The Carolina Panthers drafted Bryce Young with the first overall pick and the Houston Texans took C.J. Stroud with the second overall pick. Between three quarterbacks being selected within the first four picks, the six draft-day trades and some shocking moves, the league and its broadcasting partners are elated with the NFL Draft TV ratings for Round 1 this year.

How many people watched the 2022 NFL Draft?

NFL: NFL Draft
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL Draft TV ratings dropped last year, with the 2022 NFL Draft averaging just 10.03 million viewers for the first round. Across all three days of the 2022 draft, the NFL averaged 5.2 million viewers making it the most-watched TV programming that weekend.

As detailed by SportsMediaWatch.com, viewership reached a five-year low for the 2022 NFL Draft. Even with the event broadcasted on ABC, ESPN and NFL Network, the three networks combined to average their smallest audience for Round 1 since 2016. It also marked a 22 percent decrease from the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, which pulled in a record 12.6 million average viewers.

Related: XFL TV ratings

History of NFL Draft TV ratings

  • 2022 NFL Draft: 10.03 million avg. viewers (Round 1), 5.2 million avg. viewers (Rounds 1-7)
  • 2021 NFL Draft: 12.6 million avg. viewers (Round 1), 6.1 million avg. viewers (Rounds 1-7)
  • 2020 NFL Draft: 15.6 million avg. viewers (Round 1), 8.4 million avg. viewers (Rounds 1-7)
  • 2019 NFL Draft: 11.1 million avg. viewers (Round 1), 6.1 million avg. viewers (Rounds 1-7)
  • 2018 NFL Draft: 11.2 million avg. viewers (Round 1), 5.5 million avg. viewers (Rounds 1-7)
  • 2017 NFL Draft: 12.4 million avg. viewers (Round 1)

The most-watched NFL Draft ever came in 2020. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the NFL decided it would hold a virtual draft with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell makings picks virtually and taking in loud virtual boos from fans. Because of the uniqueness surrounding the 2020 NFL Draft and the elite prospects – Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase, Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert – the NFL pulled in its highest ratings ever for its marquee offseason event.

How long is the first round of the NFL Draft

NFL: NFL Draft
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The first round of the NFL Draft typically lasts over four hours. Each team receives 10 minutes to make their selections and they are skipped if time runs out, but they can still make their pick while the next team is on the clock.

Related: 2023 NFL Draft order

The first round of the 2023 NFL Draft begins at 8 p.m. ET and is expected to conclude after midnight on the East Coast. Because there are only 31 first-round picks this year, a result of the Miami Dolphins forfeiting their pick, the 2023 NFL Draft might be a few minutes shorter than previous years.

How many people will watch the 2023 NFL Draft

NFL: Combine
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The upcoming 2023 NFL Draft will almost certainly pull in a larger audience than the 2022 draft class. Our best explanation for the dip in viewership last year was the lack of quality quarterback prospects, highlighted by the fact that Kenny Pickett was the only first-round pick. In the 2023 draft, Bryce Young will be the first pick and he might be one of five quarterbacks taken in Round 1. Pair the quality of the quarterback prospects with the uncertainty and intrigue surrounding a divisive draft class and you have the making for an NFL Draft that should average over 11 million viewers for the first round.