Virtual NFL draft shatters records with 55 million viewers

The virtual NFL draft reached a record 55 million viewers over three days on ABC, ESPN, NFL Network, ESPN Deportes and digital channels, the league announced Sunday.

Each day of the 2020 NFL draft set records, the league said. An average audience of more than 15.6 million viewers watched Round 1 on Thursday, up 37% over 2019. More than 8.2 million watched Rounds 2 and 3 on Friday, up 40% over 2019, and Saturday's coverage of Rounds 4-7 averaged more than 4.2 million viewers, up 32% over 2019.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced picks from a studio in his basement, with more than 600 camera feeds in the homes of 85 draft prospects, 32 head coaches and general managers, as well as fans and college football coaches.

"I couldn't be more proud of the efforts and collaboration of our clubs, league personnel, and our partners to conduct an efficient Draft and share an unforgettable experience with millions of fans during these uncertain times," Goodell said in a statement.

"This Draft is the latest chapter in the NFL's storied history of lifting the spirit of America and unifying people. In addition to celebrating the accomplishments of so many talented young men, we were pleased that this unique Draft helped shine a light on today's true heroes -- the healthcare workers, first responders, and countless others on the front lines in the battle against COVID-19. We are also grateful to all those who contributed to the NFL family's fundraising efforts."

ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro said this year's draft took on much greater meaning because of the pandemic.

"It's especially gratifying for ESPN to have played a role in presenting this unique event to a record number of NFL fans while supporting the league's efforts to give back," Pitaro said in a statement. "The success of this year's Draft is a testament to the unprecedented collaboration across the NFL, ESPN and The Walt Disney Co. in the midst of such a challenging time."