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Volume 24 No. 159
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ESPN, NFL Net Garner Draft's Best Audience Yet; Polian, Mayock Lauded For Analysis

The '14 NFL Draft averaged a 3.5 fast-national rating and 5.36 million viewers across ESPN, ESPN2 and NFL Network for coverage of all rounds, marking the event's best audience on record. The audience also was up 22% over the previous record set in '10. The '14 figures were up 31% and 35%, respectively, from a 2.7 rating and 3.97 million viewers last year. ESPN/ESPN2 saw a 32% year-over-year gain in ratings, while viewership spiked by 35%. The top local markets for ESPN's coverage were New Orleans, Cleveland-Akron, Birmingham, Buffalo and Greenville-Spartanburg. NFL Net also set records this year, with ratings up 27% and viewership up 33% (THE DAILY). In Milwaukee, Bob Wolfley wrote the fervor around Browns QB Johnny Manziel was "less pronounced" among local viewers, as the city ranked 36th among metered markets. The Draft on Thursday night in Milwaukee averaged a 7.5 local rating across ESPN and NFL Net, down from an 8.9 combined rating last year (, 5/11). In N.Y., Ken Belson writes if this year's Draft was the event’s "swan song at Radio City Music Hall, it was quite a number." It was one of the "most memorable of the nine consecutive drafts held at Radio City." The NFL "will not decide until late summer where next year's draft will take place" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/12).

AND THE WINNERS ARE...:'s Richard Deitsch wrote both ESPN and NFL Net "did very well" with coverage of Michael Sam being drafted by the Rams on Saturday, "especially ESPN which had cameras on Sam and delivered celebration footage that crossed over the sports barrier." ESPN's coverage of that moment "was the network at its best." Deitsch named ESPN analyst Bill Polian the net's "Most Valuable Staffer" during the Draft. He is the "best kind of curmudgeon -- one with knowledge, authority and a viewer-friendly delivery." Meanwhile, NFL Net's "Most Valuable Staffer" was analyst Mike Mayock, who "remains above the crowd yearly." Deitsch also selected ESPN's Ray Lewis as having the "best debut" (, 5/11). In Phoenix, Bob McManaman wrote his "winner" during the Draft was the NFL. The "hype was enough to trump the NBA and NHL playoffs and it's only going to get bigger and bolder," as the NFL is "considering expanding the draft to four or five days" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 5/11). ESPN's Dan Le Batard said he "can't believe" the NFL Draft ratings "would actually dwarf" NHL and NBA playoff games. ESPN's Bomani Jones: "It's not that terribly surprising with everything that's been made of it, but man, that's got to be a humbler for [NBA Commissioner] Adam Silver. They're over there having a personnel meeting and people would rather watch that than the best player in the [NBA]" ("Highly Questionable," ESPN2, 5/9).

HITS & MISSES: In Phoenix, Bob Young devised a "heat index" and "sampled the final mock drafts of some of the better-known draft experts," including ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay, Mayock and Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio. Young devised a "basic scoring system to credit correct picks (five points) and close calls when the expert's player was selected within one spot of where he was slotted (three points)." Kiper "wasn't the best, but he was close." Mayock was the "winner with 22 points." He "correctly placed five players with the team that drafted them in the first round," and had five players who were "selected within one pick of the slot they were selected." Mayock also had six players "going in the first round who weren't selected on the first day at all." Both Kiper and McShay "correctly predicted six players going to the correct team in the first round." Florio "placed exactly one player with the correct team in his final mock draft" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 5/10). PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Florio noted's draft tracker during Saturday's fourth round "mistakenly showed" that the Ravens took QB A.J. McCarron with the "38th pick in the round." McCarron's name "eventually was removed and replaced by the actual pick" (, 5/10).

FRIEND OF THE PROGRAM? SNY's Jonas Schwartz noted CBS' Jason La Canfora "tweeted out all of the picks before they were announced." Schwartz asked with CBS being a "broadcast partner, why didn't they crackdown on La Canfora?" The N.Y. Daily News' Bob Raissman said CBS should bar La Canfora from tweeting picks because "for people that follow the draft and wanted the picks first, they're going to follow this guy and he went off on his own." But Raissman added, "I don't blame him. … I blame CBS because if CBS didn't want him to do it he wouldn't do it" ("Daily News Live," SNY, 5/9).