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NBA Draft TV numbers rebound from previous years

The NBA Draft averaged 3.04 million viewers on Thursday night on ABC and ESPN, marking a rebound from the last two years, and on par with the draft in 2019 (3.09 million), which was on ESPN, ESPNU and ESPNews, reports SBJ’s Austin Karp. This was ABC’s second year showing the event (first round only). The draft was up big from 2.26 million viewers last year in late July, when it went up against primetime coverage of the Tokyo Olympics. The 2022 event is also up big from 2.13 million viewers in 2020, when the draft aired on a Wednesday night in mid-November due to the COVID-delayed season. That telecast ran up against big numbers for cable news networks just weeks after the presidential election. Looking at just the first round, ABC/ESPN averaged 3.99 million viewers on Thursday night, up 34% from last year’s 2.98 million. ABC accounted for 1.95 million viewers on Thursday, while ESPN had 2.04 million in that 8:00-11:05pm ET window. ESPN averaged 1.12 million for the second round, up from 718,000 last year (Austin Karp, SBJ).

NBA Draft viewership trend on ESPN networks (all rounds)
YEAR NETWORKS VIEWERS (000)
2022 ABC/ESPN 3,037
2021 ABC/ESPN 2,260
2020 ESPN/ESPNU 2,130
2019 ESPN/ESPNU/ESPNews 3,087
2018 ESPN/ESPN2 3,145
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NBA Draft 2022 Audience

COME TOGETHER: In Cleveland, Dan Labbe wrote the NFL and NBA drafts could “learn from each other.” The NFL “has the timing right,” while the NBA should “create some more dead space with draft events to get fans engaged with the process.” The NBA "should do free agency first," with the draft "closer to the end" of July. NBA teams also could “do a better job of taking fans behind the scenes," as NFL teams have "done great work with showing the process without giving too much away.” The NFL meanwhile could “speed things up” and “do a lottery” (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 6/25).

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