The NFL & NBA Drafts are always major highlights of the sports year, so why doesn’t the MLB Draft have the same level of popularity?
Saturday evening marked the conclusion of the three day NFL Draft extravaganza that, even when conducted remotely, had football fans across the country glued to their televisions, with an all-time high 15.6 million viewers tuning in to watch the first round on Thursday night. This year’s draft had a different feel, as it was conducted virtually and thus didn’t feature any of the classic NFL Draft traditions such as Commissioner Roger Goodell getting booed by the hundreds of thousands of fans in attendance or hugging and handing jerseys to players who just realized their lifelong dream. Despite the different setting, the draft was still must-watch television for any sports fan and dominated the sports headlines like it always does. The NFL Draft seems to always live up to the hype bestowed upon it, certainly more than the MLB Draft does.
The NBA Draft has a similar allure to it, as even casual basketball fans typically are at least somewhat familiar with the top college players heading into the draft. The draft is always a major moneymaker for the NBA, with thousands of fans coming to attend in-person with millions of others watching at home. There’s no question that the NFL and NBA drafts are highlights of their respective sports’ calendar years, and that most fans are invested enough in the drafts to take time to read mock drafts, watch on TV and even throw draft parties.
On the complete flip side, the MLB Draft never seems to be followed or watched to nearly the same extent that the NFL and NBA drafts are. Last year was an exceptionally poor year when it came to NBA Draft viewership, as the 3.09 million fans who tuned in to watch the draft marked the lowest total in nine years. Even with such poor viewership numbers compared to other years, the NBA blew the MLB out of the water in this category, as a meager 304,000 fans tuned in to watch the first round of the 2019 MLB Draft last June.
There’s no debate that MLB is severely lagging behind the NFL and NBA in this regard, but why exactly is that? Let’s examine a number of the reasons why MLB has struggled with generating draft viewership, especially in comparison to the NFL and NBA.