Each day attracted record audiences. Thursday’s first round averaged 15.6 million, Friday’s second and third rounds 8.2 million and Saturday’s final four rounds 4.2 million. ESPN and NFL Network had a combined production all three days while ABC had separate telecasts Thursday and Friday before simulcasting the ESPN/NFL Network feed Saturday. ESPN Deportes also had a separate broadcast.
The draft, held virtually from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s house, was up 37% from last year’s telecast. It was televised on ABC, ESPN, NFL Network and shown online.
Demand for advertising space during the NFL draft broadcast has reached unprecedented levels due to the growing popularity of the event and a lack of other live sports opportunities, Disney Advertising Sales said this week. The COVID-19 pandemic has wiped out most of the U.S. sports calendar, but the three-day draft will go forward in a “virtual” format, with players participating from home, and be broadcast on Disney-owned ABC and ESPN starting on Thursday.
The April 23-25 draft was originally scheduled to be in Las Vegas but has been moved due to the coronavirus pandemic. It will now originate from ESPN’s headquarters in Bristol, Conn. Draft hosts and a limited number of commentators will be in-studio but will adhere to social distancing guidelines.
While the rest of the sporting world continues to be shut down amid the coronavirus pandemic, the NFL is going full steam ahead with its offseason activities, formally annoucing the 2020 NFL Draft will be completely virtual. ESPN and NFL Network are still expected to air the draft, which is scheduled for April 23-25.
Coverage of all three days is up 11% vs. 2018, which previously had been the most-watched draft. Coverage of the three days of the draft on ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Deportes and NFL Network (plus ESPN and NFL digital properties) averaged 6.1 million viewers.
Madison Avenue can’t place ads in NFL TV broadcasts in the off-season – there aren’t any – so it’s doing the next best thing. Disney says ad slots for its coverage of the NFL Draft, slated to air Thursday, Friday and Saturday on both ABC and ESPN, sold out about a week ago.
It began on a whim, a nutty idea in 1980 to provide weekday afternoon programming to a fledgling sports cable network that suddenly had a voracious appetite for content. Televise the NFL draft? Who’d watch that?
The network will join ESPN, also part of Walt Disney Co.’s TV properties, for primetime coverage on Thursday and Friday nights, April 25 and 26, from Nashville. NFL Network also will televise those two nights, which include the opening three rounds of the draft.
NFL draft analysis used to be a one-man show. Now everyone wants to join the neighborhood. ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. endured years of mockery for his interest in a niche event that’s essentially a series of roster transactions. Today it’s second only to the NFL playoffs on the football calendar in terms of fan interest and media coverage.
Fox Sports will broadcast the NFL draft this season, along with the NFL’s usual television partners of ESPN and NFL Network. A person familiar with the decision says Fox will show the same feed as the NFL Network. ESPN will still air its own draft feed.
When a sobbing Michael Sam celebrated his selection by the St. Louis Rams by hugging and kissing his partner, another man, it made real and physical that an openly gay athlete had taken an unprecedented step toward an NFL career. Producer Seth Markman, who oversees NFL draft coverage for ESPN, said that in the extensive preparation for Sam’s possible draft, “we never had one discussion about, ‘What if he’s drafted, his partner’s there and they kiss?’ Honestly, it never came up.”
ESPN drew 6.66 million total viewers for Thursday’s first-round coverage, according to Nielsen, up 16 percent over last year and the second-best tally ever, behind only 2010.