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Thursday, July 23, 2009
Updated: July 24, 3:45 AM ET
Draft to expand to three days

By John Clayton
ESPN.com

The audience for the NFL draft has been growing, and the league has responded by expanding the event from two to three days.

Commissioner Roger Goodell notified teams Thursday that the draft will be spread over three days in 2010, running Thursday, April 22, through Saturday, April 24.

In addition, the first round will start in prime time at 7:30 p.m. ET.

"We continue to look for ways to make the draft more accessible to more fans," Goodell said in a statement. "Moving the first round to prime time on Thursday night will make the first round of the draft available to fans on what is typically the most-watched night of television."

ESPN and the NFL Network will televise the entire show.

The second and third rounds will start at 6:30 p.m. ET on April 23.

Rounds 4 through 7 will be on April 24, starting at 10 a.m. ET.

A total of 39 million viewers watched the draft this year.

The NFL said the first round lasted just under 3½ hours in 2009, which would fit neatly into a prime-time slot.

From 1988 to 1994, the NFL held its draft on Sunday-Monday two-day blocks. From 1995 to 2009, the league made it a Saturday-Sunday event.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.