Ratings Roundup: ESPN, NFL Network Combine for Most-Viewed NFL Draft Ever

Despite competition from the NBA and NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs, the NFL Draft continued to prove itself as a ratings behemoth this year, as ESPN/ESPN2 and NFL Network’s combined coverage was the most watched ever. The two networks averaged a 3.5 fast-national rating and 5.36 million viewers for coverage of all rounds, up up 22% over the previous record set in ’10. The Draft was up 31% in ratings and 35% in viewership over last year (2.7, 4.0M).

ESPN’s coverage was the network’s highest-rated NFL Draft telecast since 1993 (based on fast nationals). The 15-plus hours on ESPN and ESPN2 delivered a 2.7 US rating, up 31% from 2013 (2.1) and up 35% from 2012 (2.0). The average viewership of 4,121,000 viewers is up 36% over 2013 (3,035,000) up 41% over 2012 (2,924,000). This weekend matches ESPN’s one-day telecast of the 1993 NFL Draft (Sunday only), which also averaged a 2.7 rating.

ESPN’s first round coverage of the NFL Draft averaged 9,943,000 viewers with a 6.1 US rating, ESPN’s most viewed NFL Draft telecast ever. The Thursday telecast ranks as the sixth highest-rated event of 2014. ESPN’s one hour of coverage of Day 2 (Rounds 2-3) delivered a 2.2 US rating and 3,155,000 viewers, while ESPN2’s remaining 3.5 hours delivered a 1.8 US rating and 2,693,000 viewers. Together, the two networks averaged a 1.9 US rating and 2,796,000 viewers, equaling the 2013 rating and a three percent gain in viewership from last year’s second and third rounds on ESPN and ESPN2 (2,727,000 viewers). ESPN’s 7.5 hours of coverage on Day 3 (Round 4-7) delivered a 1.5 US rating, a 36 percent increase over last year’s coverage (1.1 US), while viewership averaged 1,962,000, pacing 22 percent ahead of 2013 (1,610,000).

NFL Network’s coverage averaged a .79 US HH rating and 1.24 million viewers – both records for the network. Versus last year’s coverage, NFL Network experienced a 27 percent increase in average rating (.62) and a 33 percent increase in average viewers (931,000). In the 10th year of covering the NFL Draft, NFL Network has increased ratings and viewership each year, and is up 104 percent in ratings and up 121 percent in viewership since 2010.

The NFL’s digital media platforms – including NFL.com and NFL Mobile from Verizon – set records over the three days of the 2014 NFL Draft including 44 million visits – a 41 percent increase over 2013. Visits to m.NFL.com nearly doubled and NFL Mobile from Verizon had a year-over-year increase of 133 percent Over the course of the 2014 NFL Draft, NFL digital media properties had 19 million visitors, 25 percent higher than the 2013 NFL Draft 23 million video views were an 86 percent increase from 2013 and 102 percent increase from 2012…

…NBCUniversal’s coverage of the Championship Sunday put the exclamation point on a big Premier League season for the Peacock network, as a total of 4.9 million fans tuned in for the season’s final day of matches on 10 English-language networks of NBCUniversal – up 172% from the prior U.S. “Championship Sunday” high of 1.8 million on the final day of the 2011-12 Premier League season on ESPN2, FX, Fox Soccer, Speed, and Fuel (Spanish-language networks Telemundo and mun2 also each televised one match). Combined average viewership across the 10 networks of NBCUniversal on “Championship Sunday” was 1.8 million viewers – more than double the 869,000 viewers who watched on the final day in 2011-12.

Overall, record 31.5 million Americans tuned in to NBC Sports Group’s 2013-14 Premier League coverage – more than doubling the 13.3 million who watched last season on ESPN, ESPN2 and Fox Soccer. NBC and NBCSN combined to average 438,000 viewers – up 99% from last season’s combined average on ESPN, ESPN2 and FOX Soccer (220,000).  On a cable-only comparison, NBCSN averaged 395,000 viewers, an 80% increase over the ESPN, ESPN2 and FOX Soccer average.

NBC Sports Group’s coverage notched several new milestones for Premier league coverage, led by 15 games (5 on NBCSN and 10 on NBC) averaging more than 750,000 viewers – up from 0 live games reaching that figure last year. Nine of the 10 most-watched Premier League games ever on cable were viewed on NBCSN this season. Chelsea’s 2-0 victory over Liverpool (first vs. second-place matchup) on April 27 averaged 940,000 viewers and ranks as the most-watched early (pre-10 a.m. ET kickoff) Premier League match ever in the U.S. NBCSN’s Premier League coverage on Sunday, March 16, featuring a blockbuster doubleheader of Manchester United v. Liverpool, and Tottenham Hotspur v. Arsenal, averaged 725,000 viewers to rank as the most-watched Premier League Sunday doubleheader on cable ever. Bolstered by lead-ins from the Sochi Olympics as well as heavy promotion within Winter Games coverage, the 17 Premier League matches in February on NBC, NBCSN and USA Network averaged 609,000 viewers – marking the Premier League’s best month ever in the U.S.

For the first time ever in the U.S., all 380 Premier League matches were streamed live on NBC Sports Live Extra, as viewers consumed a total of 259.2 million minutes of live Premier League action via NBC Sports Live Extra during the 2013-14 season. On “Championship Sunday,” fans streamed more than 4.2 million minutes of live action – the best Sunday in Premier League history…

…The NBA Playoffs on ESPN2 delivered record ratings on Thursday resulting in the top two highest-rated postseason games ever on the network. The San Antonio Spurs’ victory over the Portland Trail Blazers posted a 2.7 overnight rating, according to Nielsen, making it the highest-rated NBA postseason game ever on ESPN2. In addition, the Miami Heat’s win over the Brooklyn Nets generated a 2.6 overnight rating, making it the second highest-rated NBA postseason game ever on ESPN2…

…Averaging nearly half a million viewers, last night’s Mets-Yankees game on YES was the network’s most-viewed Yankees telecast this season, and was the highest-rated and most-viewed Subway Series telecast on a New York regional sports network since July 3, 2011 (also YES).  YES’ telecast last night averaged 494,000 Total Viewers and generated a 4.54 average TV HH rating…

…ESPN’s live telecast of the May 10, World Boxing Council (WBC) World Heavyweight Championship fight between Bermane “B. Ware” Stiverne (24-1-1, 21 KOs) and Chris “The Nightmare” Arreola (36-4, 31 KOs) delivered a 0.8 overnight rating according to Nielsen, making it the highest-rated fight on any ESPN network since 2003 (Monte Barrett vs. Eric Kirkland delivered a 1.3 overnight rating on October 3, 2003, on ESPN2). Stiverne defeated Arreola by TKO in the sixth round, making him the first boxer of Haitian descent to win a Heavyweight title. Saturday’s fight is also tied for the third-highest-rated fight overall on any ESPN network (based on overnights, records date back to 2001).