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NFL Draft ratings rise on ESPN, NFL Network

By Larry Hartstein |

Commissioner Roger Goodell introduces EJ Manuel as the No. 16 overall pick. (USATSI)

Viewership for the NFL Draft rose 4 percent on ESPN and 23 percent on NFL Network, according to a Sports Illustrated report.

Ratings on NFL Network, which averaged 930,000 viewers during the three days, surged in part due to last year's decision by Time Warner Cable to carry the network. NFLN is now in more than 70 million homes.

ESPN averaged 3,035,000 for its three days of coverage. Perhaps due to a lack of star power atop the draft, first-round viewership on ESPN dropped 7 percent, from last year's 6.6 million to 6.2 million. That still outpaced the 6 million viewers who watched the first round in 2011.

Commissioner Roger Goodell's decision to move the draft to prime time in 2010 has boosted ratings. In 2009, 6.3 million viewers watched the first round. This year's first round drew 7.7 million viewers, third-most ever but behind last year's 8.1 million.

New Orleans was ESPN's top metered market for the three-day draft, followed by Birmingham, Kansas City, Buffalo, Dayton, Jacksonville, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, Cincinnati and Nashville, according to SI.

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