Ratings Roundup: 2021 NFL Draft Becomes Third Most-Watched Ever; 147th Kentucky Derby Grabs 14.5 Million Average Viewers, 54% Increase

Ratings roundup is a rundown of recent rating news and is derived from press releases and reports around the industry. In this week’s edition, the 2021 NFL Draft become the third most-watched Draft ever, the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby averaged 14.5 million viewers, and more.

2021 NFL Draft

The 2021 NFL Draft in Cleveland was seen by an average audience of 6.1 million viewers (TV + Digital) across ABC, ESPN, NFL Network, ESPN Deportes, and digital channels for the three-day event, making it the third most-watched Draft ever.

With 6.1 million viewers, 2021 is basically flat compared to 2019 (6.2 million), which is the second most-watched draft behind 2020 (8.3 million).

This year, the city of Cleveland averaged a 10.9 HH rating for the NFL Draft, which is the highest-rated local market for 2021 and the highest host city Draft rating on record since different cities began hosting the event in 2015.

Digitally, the 2021 NFL Draft delivered an AMA of 261K across NFL O&O, ESPN, ESPN Deportes and ABC platforms – up +36% vs. 2019 (192K).

All seven rounds of the 2021 NFL Draft were presented across ABC, ESPN, and NFL Network – the third straight year The Walt Disney Company worked with the National Football League to offer a multi-network presentation of the Draft for all seven rounds.

The second annual virtual Draft-a-Thon live fundraiser had an average daily reach of 5 million devices and 17 million total views across NFL O&O, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, Yahoo, Reddit, Twitch and AVOD platforms.

ESPN’s livestream coverage of the Draft went out to five platforms: YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, the ESPN App, and – for the first time ever – TikTok. Those streams tallied 8.9M total views and 57.7M minutes of watch time (live). The views were up +41% from the 2019 similar presentation. (NFL)

During Round 1, an average audience of 12.6 million viewers (TV + Digital) watched the drama unfold — up +11% vs. Round 1 of the 2019 NFL Draft (11.4 million). With 12.6 million viewers, 2021 ranked as the second-highest Day 1 on record, surpassing 2014 (12.4 million) and behind only 2020 (15.5 million). Digitally, Round 1 coverage delivered an AMA of 598K across NFL O&O, ESPN, ESPN Deportes and ABC platforms – up +54% vs. 2019 (389K). (NFL)

Last Thursday’s turnout topped ABC’s Academy Awards showcase by 2.1 million viewers. As for the networks, the first night was won by ESPN, which averaged 6.48 million viewers, while ABC drew 4.19 million, and NFL Network with 1.85 million. (Sportico)

Kentucky Derby

NBC Sports’ presentation of the 147th Kentucky Derby averaged a Total Audience Delivery (TAD) of 14.5 million viewers as the “Run for the Roses” returned to its traditional first Saturday in May date – marking a 54% increase from last year’s event (9.4 million on Sept. 5), according to official national data provided by Nielsen and digital data from Adobe Analytics.

Viewership peaked at 15.7 million viewers from 6:45-7 p.m. ET on NBC as Medina Spirit mounted a wire-to-wire victory and trainer Bob Baffert won the event for a record seventh time.

The TV-only average audience of 14.4 million viewers topped all entertainment awards shows for the first time ever and marked NBC’s most watched broadcast since the NFL Divisional Playoffs in January.

NBC Sports Digital’s presentation of the Kentucky Derby delivered a record Average Minute Audience (AMA) of 139,300 viewers for the event via the NBC Sports app and NBCSports.com.

The NBC-TV household rating for the broadcast (6:31-7:18 p.m. ET) was a 7.1/22. (NBC Sports)


Fox Sports’ coverage of the GEICO 500 from Talladega Superspeedway on April 25 delivered 4,701,000 viewers, which was up +4% from 2019, an audience peak of 6,265,000 viewers, the most watched sporting event of the weekend. (Twitter)

This past weekend with action taking place at Kansas Speedway, 2,739,000 viewers watched the race on FS1, which was up +26% from 2019, making it the most-watched FS1 telecast since Game 6 of the 2020 NLCS. Viewership also peaked at 3,455,000 viewers and and was the third consecutive weekend of a viewership increase. (Twitter)


With a Total Audience Delivery (TAD) of 1.225 million viewers on NBC, Sunday’s Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is now NBC Sports’ most-watched non-Indy 500 afternoon INDYCAR race ever, the second-most watched overall race behind only last year’s primetime coverage of the Genesys 300 in Texas (1.256 million viewers), and the best Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in five years (ABC, 2016, 1.391 million TV-only viewers).

Sunday’s race was up 81% compared to last year’s running of the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on NBC (10/25/20; 676,000 viewers), which was the finale of the 2020 season due to the pandemic, and up 37% vs. NBC’s 2020 INDYCAR race average (891,000 viewers), excluding the Indy 500. (NBC Sports)

As the NTT INDYCAR SERIES heads into the month of May, its first four races of the 2021 season have set viewership milestones. With two races on NBC and two on NBCSN, the series is averaging a Total Audience Delivery (TAD) of 719,000 viewers, making it the best spring start to a season in four years (799,000 viewers; ABC/NBCSN; 2017); the best spring start in NBC Sports history; and up 6% vs. the first four races in 2019, excluding the Indy 500. Comparisons exclude the 2020 season, which began in June due to the global pandemic.

Additional viewership highlights include:

  • The two April races on NBC (Barber and St. Petersburg) averaged a TAD of 1.066 million viewers, up 16% vs. 2019, the last time the season began in the spring.
  • The Grand Prix of St. Petersburg averaged a TAD of 1.225 million viewers on NBC, making it NBC Sports’ most-watched afternoon INDYCAR race ever, excluding the Indy 500, and the best GP of St. Petersburg in five years (ABC, 2016, 1.391 TV-only viewers).
  • Viewership for the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg peaked at 1.322 million TV-only viewers.
  • With a TAD of 922,000 viewers, the season opener at Barber on NBC is the second-most watched INDYCAR afternoon race since July 2020, behind only this year’s GP of St. Petersburg.
  • NBC Sports Digital’s live stream of the Barber season opener delivered an Average Minute Audience (AMA) of 7,000 viewers, the highest AMA for an INDYCAR race on record, excluding the Indy 500.
  • The two Texas races this past weekend averaged a TAD of 391,000 viewers on NBCSN, up 22% vs. last year’s first two NBCSN races (Road America and Iowa).

The first race from Texas this past Saturday (7:09-8:56 p.m. ET) averaged a TAD of 363,000 viewers, while Sunday’s race (5:00-7:23 p.m. ET) delivered 411,000 viewers. The last Texas race on NBCSN averaged 373,000 viewers in 2019. (NBC Sports)

Esports Numbers

League of Legends

The 2021 League Championship Series Spring Split showed a 30% increase in hours watched year-over-year for all of spring (across all platforms and co-streaming channels).

The Mid Season Showdown Finals saw a peak of 416,000 CCU across Twitch and YouTube, an increase of 7%  year-over-year, and an AMA of 281,000. And, the LCS remains the third-most popular professional sports league in the United States among 18- to 34-year-olds, based on live average minute audience. (Reuters)

Across the pond, the 2021 League of Legends European Championship Spring Season saw viewing records with the Spring Finals between MAD and Rogue:

  • Peak Concurrent Viewers (PCU): 866,821 fans tuned in to witness the historic finale, up 7.5 percent compared to the Spring Finals 2020.
  • Average Minute Audience (AMA): 450,395 viewers watched at the same time on average during the explosive Finals between MAD and Rogue, up 12.3 percent compared to last year’s Spring Finals.
  • Hours Watched: 44,160,068 hours of live incredible LEC action were watched over the entire 2021 Spring Season, a massive increase of 40.4 percent compared to Spring 2020 – and the most hours watched of any season in the history of the LEC. (Riot Games)

ONE Esports

The ONE Esports Singapore Major registered more than 274 million views across all streaming platforms. A total of 1.1 million concurrent viewers watched Invictus Gaming defeat Evil Geniuses in the April 4 grand final of the first major event of the 2021 Dota Pro Circuit. (Reuters)

UEFA Champions League on TUDN

Univision TUDN’s telecast of this year’s UEFA Champions League Semi-Final round set new highs for the property in the U.S., as TUDN delivered the top-rated performance ever for the round. Featuring Real Madrid vs. Chelsea and Man. City vs. 2020 runner-up Paris Saint-Germain, the Semi-Finals averaged 1.01 million Total Viewers P2+ and 518,000 Adults 18-49 on Univision and TUDN, becoming the first time the round delivered more than 1 million viewers on average.

  • Wednesday, May 5: Chelsea vs. Real Madrid
    • 1.21 million (P2+)
    • 647,000 (A 18-49)
  • Tuesday, May 4: Man. City vs. PSG
    • 935,000 (P2+)
    • 485,000 (A 18-49)
  • Wednesday, April 28: PSG vs. Man. City
    • 942,000 (P2+)
    • 469,000 (A 18-49)
  • Tuesday, April 27: Real Madrid vs. Chelsea
    • 957,000 (P2+)
    • 473,000 (A 18-49)

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