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NFL draft shatters ratings record with virtual event

NFL draft shatters ratings record with virtual event
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TV viewership of the annual NFL draft peaked at a record 19.6 million last week, a 37 percent increase over last year's audience as more Americans tuned in for some semblance of sports amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The draft drew an average of 15.6 million viewers on its first three nights, with its peak on Thursday as fans watched the first round picks announced on ABC, ESPN, ESPN Deportes and the NFL Network. Last year's draft drew 11.4 million at its peak, according to Nielsen Media Research.

This year's draft figures also outpaced viewership from major sporting events from 2019, before coronavirus restrictions were implemented. Game 1 of the 2019 World Series drew 12.2 million viewers, while Game 1 of the NBA Finals drew 13.6 million.

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Analysts had predicted high ratings for the NFL draft while almost all sports leagues are on hold for the foreseeable future.

The draft, held as a virtual event for the first time, included NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announcing draft picks from his basement and one first-round pick, the University of Alabama's Henry Ruggs, being selected by the Las Vegas Raiders while wearing a bathrobe.

Heisman Trophy-winning LSU quarterback Joe Burrow was picked first overall, by the Cincinnati Bengals. Burrow is an Ohio native.

The NFL is tentatively set to begin its 2020 season in September as planned, with the league exploring the possibility of a truncated schedule or playing in empty or partially empty stadiums due to the coronavirus pandemic.