NFL Draft Beat NBA Playoffs in TV ratings

nfl-draft-genericAm I surprised by news that more people watched the 1st round of the 2010 NFL draft last night than watched first round action in the NBA playoffs? Nope.

But USA Today‘s Tom Weir captures it with particular brutality:  “Preliminary ratings show that television viewers preferred watching NFL prospects walk to a podium last night over seeing NBA postseason baskebtall action.”   Ouch.

The facts:

According to Bloomberg, ESPN’s coverage of the NFL draft outdrew the two NBA playoffs on TNT last night. An ESPN spokesman said the draft was seen in 5.4% of households in the top 56 U.S. markets. A TNT rep said the Cavaliers-Bulls game had a 2.1 rating, and the later Lakers-Thunder playoff earned a 3.0.

Those are all preliminary numbers. An Associated Press story this afternoon said the overnight ESPN number was 5.47. But the draft also was shown on NFL Network, where AP says it drew a 0.95 rating, for a combined total of 6.42.

Anyway you cut it, that’s a rough night for the NBA, considering it had superstars LeBron James and Kobe Bryant playing.

And that’s without me.  For the first time in years, I skipped the draft, aside from a few minutes right at the beginning and, by sheer chance, the Dallas Cowboys’ pick of Dez Bryant right before I turned in for the night.  It’s not so much that I wasn’t interested as the fact that it went from being on a Saturday to being on a Thursday night.

But the bottom line is that the NFL is far and away the dominant force in American sports.   Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has a point in criticizing the NFL for shifting it schedule like this — there’s an understanding that generally prevails so that the leagues don’t step on one another.  But almost anything the NFL does — a meaningless preseason game,   the fairly boring draft — will top even the playoffs in the other sports.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Brian Knapp says:

    Yes to all of that coupled with the impact of fantasy leagues.

    I, of course, prefer the NBA playoffs, or any NBA game to football, but I’m obviously in a minority vs NFL.

  2. Todd Kiehn says:

    You’ve also got two facts working in the draft’s favor: a) this is a once-a-year event vs. a random night in a multi-month-long playoff process, and b) *every* team is involved at some point in the evening (ergo national interest) vs. just a couple of teams playing that night in the NBA.

    But nonetheless I am stunned at the amount of attention paid to the draft.

  3. just me says:

    I can honestly say I don’t care much about watching a draft in any sport-even the ones I do like to watch. I am far more of casual professional sports viewer except in hockey and only then it is when my favorite team is playing. I don’t generally care to watch most professional sports. I like to watch hockey, really don’t like baseball, and prefer college basketball to professional. So my opinion probably doesn’t really matter.

    I imagine the all out sports enthusiast is probably going to go for the one time a year show (draft) over one game in a series.

  4. Peter says:

    My guess is that the ratings imbalance is due in part to the NFL’s popularity and in part due to the fact that the NBA playoffs just go on and on forever.