After a season in which NFL television ratings declined, the major event of the offseason got a boost in ratings.
Both ESPN and NFL Network reported that their ratings increased over last year. ESPN averaged 3.1 million viewers over the entire 15 hours of the draft, spread over three days and on both ESPN and ESPN2. For NFL Network, which averaged 1.5 million viewers, it was the most-viewed draft ever.
For Round 1 on Thursday night only, ESPN averaged 6.9 million viewers, while NFL Network averaged 2.5 million viewers.
Browns fans are incredibly loyal viewers of the draft: Cleveland repeated as the No. 1 local market for draft ratings, while Dayton was tied with host city Philadelphia for second. Local ratings in Philadelphia this year were significantly higher than local ratings in host city Chicago last year.
League executives will surely see the good ratings as vindication of their approach to the draft, which has included an attempt to bring in more casual fans with gimmicks that some hard-core football fans dislike. The draft is getting better with each year and at each new venue, and it shows no sign of slowing down.