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First round of virtual 2020 NFL Draft draws record 15.6 million viewers

April 24 (UPI) -- The first round of the 2020 NFL Draft, which was conducted virtually for the first time due to the coronavirus pandemic, was the most watched opening round ever, the league announced Friday.

The first round of the draft, which featured NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announcing picks from his New York home, drew 15.6 million viewers, representing a 37 percent increase over the 2019 draft.

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The record viewership, which included numbers from ABC, ESPN, NFL Network, ESPN Deportes and other digital channels, shattered the previous record of 12.4 million viewers from the 2014 draft. Thursday night's draft coverage peaked from 8:45 p.m. to 9 p.m. EST, when 19.6 million viewers tuned in, according to the league.

The NFL "Draft-A-Thon," a fundraising initiative held in conjunction with the draft, had more than seven million viewers across multiple digital and social channels.

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"The theme of hope is always prevalent in the NFL, especially with regard to the draft," Goodell said in a statement Friday. "In 2020, that's especially true, as we help honor healthcare workers, first responders, and others on the front lines of the battle with COVID-19 while giving our fans something to cheer about as we celebrate the next generation of NFL stars.

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"We are so thrilled so many people were able to join us last night and we thank them for helping support the Draft-A-Thon."

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Rounds 2 and 3 of the 2020 NFL Draft were held Friday, and Rounds 4-7 will take place Saturday.

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