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Round one of NFL Draft on ESPN averages 7.3M viewers; Most-watched first round of draft [UPDATE]

Update: The draft also aired on NFL Network, where it drew an additional 1.03 million viewers with a 0.5/2 A18-49 rating/share.  Adding that together with the airing on ESPN (7.29M viewers and a 3.2/10 A18-49 rating/share), the first round of the draft drew an average of 8.32 million viewers and a 3.7 A18-49 rating.

Original article follows below.

The first round of the NFL Draft on ESPN averaged 7.29 million viewers, making it the most-watched first round ever in the network’s 31-year history of televising the event. 23% higher than last year’s coverage of the first round (5.925M viewers).

Click over the jump for the full press release.

ESPN’s Most-Viewed NFL Draft First Round

ESPN Wins the Night Among Key Male Demos, Adults 18-34 and Adults 18-49

ESPN’s live telecast of the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft – conducted for the first time in prime time – was the most-viewed first round ever in the network’s 31-year televising the event. The ESPN telecast (7:30-11:20 p.m. ET) delivered a 5.3 household coverage rating and 7,290,000 viewers (based on fast nationals), according to Nielsen Media Research, 23% higher than last year’s first round (4.3). The telecast equaled the 5.3 rating from ESPN’s first round in 2006 and surpassed that year’s viewership mark of 5,925,000.

The telecast ranks as the fifth most-watched cable program of the year among households (5,273,000) and the eighth most-watched among viewers.

From 8-11 p.m. last night, ESPN averaged 7.7 million viewers, making it the second most-watched network of the night. ESPN won the night among all key male demos, adults 18-34 and adults 18-49. In addition, ESPN’s Draft telecast was the top program of the night among all key male demos.

Note: Final ratings will be released late this afternoon.

Highest-Rated Markets for ESPN’s Thursday night coverage (7:30-11:20 p.m.): Jacksonville – 10.9 New Orleans – 10.8 Austin, Texas – 9.7 Cleveland – 9.2 Oklahoma City – 8.6

2010 NFL Draft Continues

ESPN’s coverage continues with Rounds 2-3 tonight, Friday, April 23, at 6 p.m. on ESPN (switches to ESPN2 at 7 p.m. through the conclusion of Round 3). Day 3 will begin Saturday at 9 a.m. on ESPN with a one-hour SportsCenter Special: On the Clock followed by all seven hours (10 a.m. – 5 p.m.) of Rounds 4-7 on ESPN.

Sources: ESPN & TravisYanan