The NFL’s first draft held in Las Vegas was supposed to bring the excitement and sizzle of “Sin City” to the first round of the league’s annual draft.
It did not.
Viewership for the first round of the NFL crashed 20% on Thursday night. Down 34% from the virtual 2020 draft held at the height of the pandemic.
According to Front Office Sports’ Michael McCarthy:
Thursday’s combined First Round coverage across the Walt Disney Co.’s ABC and ESPN and the league’s NFL Network averaged 10.03 million viewers, down 20% from last year’s 12.5 million, according to Sports TV Ratings and other reports.
That number was off 34% from the record 15.3 million viewers who tuned in for 2020’s ‘virtual’ Draft at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite the glamorous setting in Las Vegas, it was the lowest figure since the 9.2 million average viewers for ESPN and NFLN’s First Round coverage in 2017.
Does the sudden and dramatic crash signal a decline in fan interest? It likely does not. The 2022 draft was an oddity in that there were no marquee quarterbacks expected to be taken in the first round. In fact, a quarterback wasn’t taken until pick 20.
Another factor that hurt viewership was that ten teams did not make a pick in the first round. An unusually high number after multiple significant trades last year and this offseason. With the lack of big name quarterbacks, teams opted to fill defensive needs, and defense, well, just doesn’t sell.