NEW YORK — Johnny Football may not have appreciated the excruciating wait until he was drafted by the Cleveland Browns with the 22nd pick, but ESPN sure did.
The Nielsen company said Friday that the first round of the NFL draft drew 9.9 million viewers to ESPN Thursday night, shattering the previous record for the event that the network has telecast since 1980. The previous high was 7.3 million viewers in 2010.
Another 2.4 million people watched the draft coverage on The NFL Network, Nielsen said. That makes for a total of about 12.4 million for the event as a whole.
The drama about where former Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M would land is considered the biggest factor in the ratings success. Draft forecasters suggested Manziel would go much higher.
Viewership Thursday was 60 percent higher than last year’s 6.2 million.