The NFL Draft's push into primetime and three-day format tackled a record number of viewers.
The 75th anniversary of the pro football league's college selection event cumed some 45.4 million on ESPN, ESPN and NFL Network, according to Nielsen data, 16% more than the 39 million who watched some part of the 2009 draft.
Buoyed by the 7.3 million average for the first round in primetime on Thursday April 22, ESPN and ESPN2 averaged 3.72 million viewers over 14.5 hours of coverage from Radio City Music Hall in Manhattan.
On Friday night, ESPN's one-hour of coverage from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. (ET) of the start of the second round delivered a 2.6 rating, 2.53 million households, and 3.15 million. With NBA playoff commitments on the flagship, the draft coverage switched to ESPN2 from 7 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., delivering a 2.6 rating, 2.61 million households, and 3.37 million viewers. Together, the networks averaged 2.59 million households and 3.32 million viewers Friday night, up 10% and 6%, respectively, from the second round a year ago.
ESPN's coverage of rounds four through seven on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5:19 p.m. averaged a 1.8 household rating, a 13% increase from a 1.6 for the corresponding coverage on Sunday in 2009.
The three days of coverage on NFL Network, which kicked off with 1 million watchers on Thursday night, averaged 560,000 viewers, up 21% from 463,000 viewers last year and double the pro football league's in-house service's 280,000 watchers in 2007.
NFL Network's distribution roster sat at some 56 million this time around, versus about 45 million for the 2009 draft.