NFL draft’s first round outdoes Oscars in weekly ratings

 Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence drops back to pass.
Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence was the first pick in the NFL draft.
(John Bazemore / Associated Press)

Coverage of the first round of the NFL draft drew its second-largest audience, topping all of the week’s prime-time entertainment programs and surpassing the Oscars four days earlier.

An average of 12.6 million viewers watched Thursday’s four-hour, six-minute draft telecast on ESPN, ABC, NFL Network, ESPN Deportes and digital channels.

Viewership was down 18.7% from last year’s record 15.5 million, when the draft was held on a virtual basis for the first time and when more people were at home than usual. Also last year, the draft did not face competition from telecasts of other sporting events because of restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic.


ESPN’s coverage averaged 6.479 million viewers, first among prime-time cable programs airing between April 26 and Sunday and seventh overall, according to live-plus-same-day figures released by Nielsen on Tuesday. ABC’s coverage averaged 4.192 million viewers, 23rd for the week, and the NFL Network’s 1.85 million.

For the first time viewership for the NFL draft was larger than the Oscars, which aired the previous week. ABC’s April 25 Oscars coverage averaged a record-low 10.403 million viewers.

Coverage of President Biden’s address to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday averaged 26.936 million viewers on 16 cable and broadcast networks, 43.6% less than the 47.741 million average on 11 broadcast and cable networks for the corresponding speech given by then-President Donald Trump in 2017.

More viewers watched Biden’s speech on MSNBC than any other network, 4.116 million, second among cable programs and 24th overall.

CBS had the week’s five top-ranked individual programs, topped by “NCIS,” which averaged 8.546 million viewers for its fifth first-place finish in the 32-week-old 2020-21 prime-time television series. “NCIS” is the season’s only scripted program to win a week this season.

CBS’ “60 Minutes” finished second for the week, averaging 7.619 million viewers, and the highest-rated comedy, “Young Sheldon,” was fourth for the week, averaging 7.344 million.


CBS returned to the top of the network race, one week after ABC ended its 13-week winning streak, averaging 4.83 million viewers for its 16th victory of the season.

ABC was second, averaging 3.22 million, followed by NBC, which averaged 2.94 million viewers.

Fox was fourth for the 14th consecutive week, averaging 2.12 million viewers for its 15 hours, 41 minutes of programming. The CW again was fifth among the five major English-language broadcast networks, averaging 630,000 viewers for its 12 hours.

CBS, NBC and ABC each aired 22 hours of prime-time programming.

NBC singing competition “The Voice” had the biggest audience of all non-CBS programs, averaging 6.8 million viewers. The Sunday edition of “American Idol” was ABC’s top draw for the fifth consecutive week it has aired, averaging 6.01 million viewers, ninth for the week.

The procedural drama “9-1-1” had Fox’s biggest audience, averaging 5.965 million viewers, 10th for the week. A “9-1-1” episode has had Fox’s largest audience all 10 weeks it has aired this season.

The martial arts action-adventure series “Kung Fu” topped The CW’s ratings for the fourth time in the four weeks it has aired, averaging 1.051 million viewers, 118th among broadcast programs. Its overall rank was not available.


Fox News Channel won the cable network prime-time race for the fifth consecutive week and 13th time in 14 weeks, averaging 2.202 million viewers. ESPN was second, averaging 2.042 million, and MSNBC third, averaging 1.593 million.

“The Irregulars” was the most streamed program the week of March 29 through April 4, Nielsen’s latest weekly figures, with viewers watching 643 million minutes of the eight-episode British crime drama in its first full week of release.

“The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” was the only non-Netflix program in the top 10 for the third consecutive week. Nielsen also announces streaming viewership of Hulu and Amazon Prime.