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Addition of network television makes for most-watched NFL draft ever

2018 NFL Draft

ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 26: (L-R) Colleen Wolfe of NFL Network, Pro Football Hall of Famer and NFL Network Analyst Michael Irvin, and former NFL wide receiver Drew Pearson stand onstage during the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft at AT&T Stadium on April 26, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

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The NFL draft was on network television for the first time ever, and that made the difference as it became the most-watched draft ever.

The league announced today that the draft had an average of 5.5 million viewers at any given time, the highest viewership total ever for the full draft. The first round of the draft averaged 11.2 million viewers on Thursday night. Draft viewership declines on the second and third days, but Saturday’s average of 2.9 million viewers was the best Day 3 ever.

This year NFL Network’s coverage on Thursday and Friday night was simulcast on FOX, while ESPN’s coverage on Saturday was simulcast on ABC in most markets.

After ratings of NFL games have declined for the last two seasons, the league was looking for something to bolster the viewership of its biggest offseason event, and the addition of network TV partners made a big difference.