The 2013 NFL Draft kicked off Thursday, and millions tuned in to watch the next generation of NFL stars begin their professional careers.
Total viewership of the first round of the draft on ESPN and NFL Network totaled a combined 20 million viewers, according to The Nielsen Company, making it the most-watched cable show of the night. The combined average for ESPN and NFL Network was 7.7 million, almost doubling the History Channel's "Swamp People" (4 million viewers), the next-most watched cable program on Thursday.
Millions of fans watched offensive tackles Eric Fisher (Kansas City Chiefs) and Luke Joeckel (Jacksonville Jaguars) get drafted No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, easily surpassing the total viewership of Game 3 of the NBA Western Conference first-round series between the Los Angeles Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies (2.6 million viewers).
NFL Network saw a 7 percent year-over-year boost in viewership, increasing to 1.5 million viewers from 2012's mark of 1.4 million.
Coverage of the draft's first round by the NFL's digital media platforms (which include NFL.com, NFL Mobile from Verizon and other NFL mobile products) saw a 35 percent year-over-year increase in unique visitors. Compared with 2011, the digital media platforms' 2013 coverage earned a 101 percent increase.
The 2013 NFL Draft continues Friday at 6:30 p.m. ET with Rounds 2 and 3.