In the TV business, the performance of a given show in one year is immediately compared to its performance the prior year. Last year, that was a great comparison for the league to make. This year, it’s not.
As explained by John Ourand of Sports Business Journal, NFL executives are privately trying to manage expectations for reduced TV viewership of the 2021 draft. The reason is simple. Last year, the NFL enjoyed record viewership because, fewer than two months into the pandemic, nothing else was happening in the sports world, or pretty much anywhere else. (And, of course, last year’s victory lap regarding the ratings didn’t point that out.)
Last year, the NFL had 15.6 million average viewers in the first round of the draft. In 2019, the round one averages 11.1 million. Ourand notes that this year’s opening-night number could be even lower than 2019, because of the reduction in the number of homes that even use televisions. Major TV events of the past have seen big drops this year.
Ourand predicts that, the longer Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields stays on the board, the higher the ratings will be. That’s what happened when, for example, Johnny Manziel slid to No. 24 in 2014.