In an impressive showing of the NFL's dominant perch atop the sports culture hierarchy, the first round of the draft produced record-setting TV ratings, blowing away the NBA and NHL playoff games against which it was competing.

ESPN's draft coverage Thursday doubled the ratings for the Spurs-Trail Blazers and Heat-Nets conference semifinal games. And that's made even more impressive by the fact that the draft was broadcast on both ESPN and the NFL Network.


The 6.8 overnight rating is up a mind-boggling 48 percent from last year, making it the most-viewed first round in NFL draft history.

To put that number into context, consider this (via Business Insider): Last season the NBA had 78 playoff games before the Finals and they averaged a 2.7 rating. Only one -- Game 7 of the Pacers-Heat Eastern Conference Finals (7.1) -- beat this year's NFL draft.

While there was lots of intrigue across the board this year, no single player drew more viewers than Johnny Manziel. The 2012 Heisman Trophy winner has an enormous fan base, and the curiosity surrounding where he would be chosen drew a significant portion of viewership. The city of Cleveland, where Manziel ended up with the 22nd overall pick, led ESPN's ratings.


The draft, and Manziel, dominated the social media sphere Thursday night.



The NFL draft ratings peaked between 9:45 p.m. and 10 p.m. ET, when the Dallas Cowboys were on the clock with the 16th pick. That's likely a function of the fact that Manziel, who hails from Texas, was still available for that selection. Dallas selected offensive lineman Zack Martin.

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