As FOX televises the draft, ESPN continues to lose control of the event it built

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When ESPN first approached the NFL about televising the draft, Commissioner Pete Rozelle was taken aback: Who would want to watch that?

As it turned out, the answer was: Millions of football fans. With ESPN’s help, the NFL draft has become a huge annual event and the centerpiece of the NFL offseason. It’s become a lucrative business for both ESPN and the NFL.

But with FOX agreeing to televise the draft for the first time this year, it’s an event that ESPN no longer controls.

In recent years, NFL Network’s coverage of the draft has taken a bigger and bigger piece of the pie. Although ESPN has always had higher ratings than NFL Network, the ESPN-NFLN split of the audience has gone from 74-26 in 2015 to 70-30 in 2016 to 67-33 in 2017, according to Sports Business Journal. That split is certain to change significantly when FOX, which as a broadcast network reaches more viewers than ESPN, jointly televises the draft with NFL Network this year. It’s likely that the combined FOX-NFL Network coverage will have a higher viewership than ESPN’s coverage.

Pete Rozelle never could have imagined, when ESPN first approached him, that the NFL draft would become such a hot commodity that some other network would come along and compete with ESPN for the event. But that day has come, and with FOX and NFL Network now showing the draft together, it’s a competition ESPN is likely to lose.

87 responses to “As FOX televises the draft, ESPN continues to lose control of the event it built

  1. Semi-related: I really wish the NFL or ESPN or whoever would allow some sort of on demand menu of previous years’ draft broadcasts. I’d love to be able to go back and watch moments when notable players were drafted, to see what everyone was saying about them back then with the hindsight of how they panned out or not. But I’m sure they’d never do that, otherwise we’d see how inaccurate these so called “experts” really are.

  2. ESPN is a complete joke now. From their horrible shows and hosts, to their irrelevant stats (launch angle, exit velocity etc.) The network has major issues and they know it. Looks like more cuts coming out in Bristol.

  3. The only reason I was paying for cable was ESPN but several months ago I decided to cut the cord. So, I’m really happy the event with be televised on a broadcast network. More and more sporting events seem to be moving toward channels you have to pay for so this is a refreshing change.

  4. Should ESPN give the draft the NHL treatment and basically pretend it doesn’t exist? Hyping it up at this point is basically helping the competition.

  5. Where do these hermits live who don’t have access to either the NFL Network or ESPN? Since when is over the air broadcasting more accessible than using a satellite dish? Cord cutters have multiple ways to access these networks.

    It is difficult to believe that there are that many Luddites out there with rabbit ears watching only four or five channels.

  6. I’m a 52 yr old man. When ESPN debuted it was great! Not so much what they had to offer but the idea of a 24 hour sports network. Now we have FOX and individual sports networks like NFL MLB NBA ECT. But ESPN are looking like a Roman Empire that’s in a freefall in front of our eyes. Familiar faces are constantly changing. Now hosts need to promote their own personal ideas and agendas. They feel they need to change formats and make things Hip and Fresh. Losing the NFL draft is a residual from all the changes from the last handful of years. You reap what you sow

  7. Don’t be surprised if ESPN goes back to telling everyone the pick before it’s made to try to make themselves look so much “smarter” than FOX and or the NFLN. I for 1 won’t have ESPN on.

  8. Poor ESPN ……. not. I might have some sympathy for ESPN if it hadn’t become essentially tabloid sports. I know I used to watch the draft on ESPN exclusively, but over the past couple years the way ESPN reports, pushes rumors and gossip I turn elsewhere. ESPN just isn’t any good anymore for anything other than airing an actual game.

  9. ESPN may have been there at the beginning but its the NFLs products. ESPN has not played their cards well in recent years anyhow and if someone else is ponying up the right amount of money its the NFLs prerogative.

  10. Curious how the viewership of the Draft has trended over the past several seasons.

    Presumably it will trend down just like NFL game viewership.

    It’s part-n-parcel of the same product and frankly, given how the draft is half random chance, I don’t get why so many people watch it to begin with. I mean take a look at any first round in recent history. Consider the hype on just about every 1st-round pick as BPA or best at his position, and then look at how they did. More fail than succeed.

    Correspondingly, teams that get A grades on the draft immediately following it often end up with C grades “upon further review” a couple of seasons down the path.

    With all of the compounding PR troubles of the NFL leading to diminished viewership it’s difficult to believe that Draft viewership isn’t in tow.

  11. Such a shame (*cough* FrameGate) that such an ‘esteemed’ network (*cough Goodell’s toadies*) should fall on financial hardship (*cough* Kellerman). I wonder if there’s anything at all (*cough* idiot ex-QBs criticizing Brady relentlessly) of a journalistic integrity nature (*cough* Framegate again) that could have foretold this slump in viewership?(*cough*)

  12. I’m nowhere near as vitriolic on ESPN as the average poster is here on PFT, but they are clearly a network that has been on the decline for years. I don’t think they have a “political agenda” – even if some of its on-air talent may use their platform to advance their own, few networks are immune to that. I just think they have lost touch with their viewers – how people consume information and what information they want to consume. And their stats…wow I feel like I am watching a 24/7 baseball game. I don’t need that kind of analysis.

    I am glad other networks are competing for the these shows, and Fox NFL covering the draft could be a good thing. They are generally my favorite pre-game show anyway.

  13. A pre-draft show reflecting on the last ten or so drafts and how well the teams grade out versus the grades given during those events would be interesting. I, for one, don’t enjoy ESPN Anymore and seldom watch it. I miss the old ESPN, where I got my fill of Sport News and watched events for entertainment.

  14. wny49er says:
    February 15, 2018 at 7:41 am
    I hope Fox is able to borrow Kiper and O’Shea, they are they only reason I watched the draft.

    = = = = = = = =

    Kiper is more of a reason to NOT watch. He’s just a shill for whatever players sign with his agent.

  15. The comments here just prove most people are stupid. The same people that ran ESPn into the ground run the NFL Network and Fox now. The guy that got fired a couple of months ago was the embrace debate guy, lol. SMH.

  16. Who cares about the NFL draft? Besides, this is a league that doesn’t provide real football. They can’t define a catch and you wonder why the ratings continue to decline. Yes ESPN stink but this has nothing to do with them. It wouldn’t surprise me Philly doesn’t make the playoffs next year. The league loves 8-8 teams.

  17. charliecharger says:
    February 15, 2018 at 7:42 am
    I like ESPN the best. That’s the show I’ll be watching.

    —————
    Yeah, ESPNs appealing lies are better than FOX’s unpleasant truths.

  18. realfootballfan says:
    February 15, 2018 at 8:29 am
    The comments here just prove most people are stupid. The same people that ran ESPn into the ground run the NFL Network and Fox now. The guy that got fired a couple of months ago was the embrace debate guy, lol. SMH.

    —————-
    Dude, we are ALL stupid. Its fun though.

  19. pphins4life12 says:
    February 15, 2018 at 5:50 am

    I miss the days of Stuart Scott and Rich Eisen
    Hands down the two best sportscenter anchors.

    ÷÷÷÷÷

    No way. Stu Scott was annoying. Gimme Dan Patrick any day of the week on Sportcenter over Scott.

  20. BSPN is sinking like the titanic…
    Maybe we can get a sports network that actually cares about reporting sports.

  21. lscottman3 says:
    February 15, 2018 at 6:40 am
    11 out of 12 NFL fans think ESPN should die on the vine. We will never forget the lies.
    —————

    11 out of 12 Patriots fans, you mean.

    The rest of us may feel that way, but not because of the TRUTHS spoken about NE.

  22. pondbridge says:
    February 15, 2018 at 7:41 am
    Such a shame (*cough* FrameGate) that such an ‘esteemed’ network (*cough Goodell’s toadies*) should fall on financial hardship (*cough* Kellerman). I wonder if there’s anything at all (*cough* idiot ex-QBs criticizing Brady relentlessly) of a journalistic integrity nature (*cough* Framegate again) that could have foretold this slump in viewership?(*cough*)
    ———-

    People tuned in with higher numbers to see ESPN expose the Cheats for who they are. Who are you fooling?

    It’s the other stuff that caused people to tune out.

    Funny still how certain people don’t ever have a problem with people politicizing sports content until it calls out that same group of “certain people” for which is being protested nowadays. FUNNY.

  23. I rarely watch or pay attention to ESPN, but I prefer their draft coverage. Not because it’s necessarily good — I just can’t stand the NFL Network coverage. I went from pleased when I saw that Fox would broadcast the draft to disappointed upon reading that they’re just simulcasting what’s on the NFL Network.

  24. I haven’t watch the draft on ESPN in years; the NFL network is easier on the eyes and ears. As for ESPN, this is just one more step in their downward spiral.

  25. “People tuned in with higher numbers to see ESPN expose the Cheats for who they are. ”

    Of course, everything has been debunked on deflategate many times over. And the hit jobs subsquent weren’t even allegations of anything, they were just a bunch of paranoid haters that said they took precuations against the trash, the warm drinks the bugged locker rooms, not letting any PAtriots staff in the locker room – not even an allegation about “the cheats”, just paranoid losers that never found anything.

    I actually like people who call the Patriots “cheats” its like a litmus test fro IQ, I can tell who has a low IQ just by what they say about the Patriots

  26. skolvikings2017 says:
    February 15, 2018 at 6:01 am

    ESPN is a complete joke now. From their horrible shows and hosts, to their irrelevant stats (launch angle, exit velocity etc.) The network has major issues and they know it. Looks like more cuts coming out in Bristol.

    —————————————————

    Launch Angle and Exit Velo are not “ESPN stats” they are actual metrics used by the MLB…

    ESPN has a lot wrong with it, and part of that is uninformed viewers.

  27. cardinealsfan20 says:
    February 15, 2018 at 6:23 am

    It is difficult to believe that there are that many Luddites out there with rabbit ears watching only four or five channels.

    ——

    for informational purposes, there is a lot of free over-the-air programming available. digital reception results in clarity that can be better than cable. there are indoor (tabletop, wall mount, or attic mount) and exterior options that are dependent on distance from transmitters and line-of-sight obstructions. and they don’t necessarily have to be huge, unless

    The cost of an antenna package, depending on needs, can = 1 to 2 months of a cable bill. Granted you won’t be able to get the usual cable channels, but many of those are available with a relatively low cost streaming package, including ESPN and NFL network.

    By the way, you’d probably be surprised what you could pick up with even just a couple of properly bent and wired coat hangars.

  28. Somebody at the “Four Letter Network” must have just used a few choice “Four Letter Words” haha.

  29. cardinealsfan20 says:
    February 15, 2018 at 6:23 am
    Where do these hermits live who don’t have access to either the NFL Network or ESPN? It is difficult to believe that there are that many Luddites out there with rabbit ears watching only four or five channels.
    – – – – – – –
    If I could attach a photo to my post I’d show you the TV rabbit ears. I cut the cord in 2013 and haven’t missed a darn thing all the while laughing at the savings month after month of no longer paying for sub-par programming.

  30. No see DA’s like you assume foxnews is same as Fox the network, yes they are owned by the same people, but unlike other companies. Fox keeps the political side away from the network. ESPN does both even though espn is owned by Disney and ABC.
    redlikethepig says:
    February 15, 2018 at 8:47 am
    ESPN is way too political. Not like FOX. Amirite?

  31. LOLOLOLOLOLOLLOLOLOLL that was gold, i guess your not a real football fan. the people who ran ESPN into the ground still work there, ESPN only fired their conservative journalist, that is all.

    realfootballfan says:
    February 15, 2018 at 8:29 am
    The comments here just prove most people are stupid. The same people that ran ESPn into the ground run the NFL Network and Fox now. The guy that got fired a couple of months ago was the embrace debate guy, lol. SMH.

  32. cardinealsfan20 says:
    February 15, 2018 at 6:23 am

    Where do these hermits live who don’t have access to either the NFL Network or ESPN? Since when is over the air broadcasting more accessible than using a satellite dish? Cord cutters have multiple ways to access these networks.

    It is difficult to believe that there are that many Luddites out there with rabbit ears watching only four or five channels.
    ————————-

    Satellite dish? Welcome to the 20th century. I use rabbit ears to get all of the local stations. If I wanted to watch ESPN or NFLN, I would just get Sling, or some similar service.

  33. Its still all about MEL!!! The others are fools with the exception of the opinions of quality GMs and coaches like Casserly, Bill Polian or coaches like Billick and Herm Edwards. Mayock is a good listen to. But these other wannabees like McShay need to go away. Its watering down the product.

  34. A station that booted Czarniak, a perfectly competent anchor, for the ridiculous pairing of Smith-Hill (while Czarniak was on maternity leave!), ought to be punished.

    They need to cut back and focus on events and not the side shows.

    Won’t miss Mel Kiper and Todd McShay and the others a bit. Mainly bc I do not watch the draft.

  35. pphins4life12 says:

    February 15, 2018 at 5:50 am

    I miss the days of Stuart Scott and Rich Eisen
    Hands down the two best sportscenter anchors.
    —————————–
    Stuart Scott started the downward trend that ESPN is in now…

  36. pphins4life12 says:

    February 15, 2018 at 5:50 am

    I miss the days of Stuart Scott and Rich Eisen
    Hands down the two best sportscenter anchor.

    —————-

    Idk .. Kenny Mayne and Linda Cohn were pretty good also.

  37. Politics and Sports do not play well together…and ESPN had double down on the social issues.

    Before I cut the cord at the beginning of the yea…outside of watching my teams play I have did not turn on ESPN after I read they gave Caitlin an award…that might have been even dumber than the premise of a sports award show.

  38. @silvernblacksabbath says:

    Stuart Scott started the downward trend that ESPN is in now…
    ===================================================================================
    Based upon what? Prove it! He was not it charge of programming. He was not responsible for the advent of MLB, NLN, Foxsports, SEC Network, etc. He added something ESPN desperately lacked, which was style and swag. Admittedly, his overuse of unique sayings wore thin after awhile. However, a well placed “booyah” or “have some” was great. That’s what happened to Berman and Vitale. You’re mentioning him is as the downfall is misplaced, inaccurate and misguided!

  39. I do have to wonder if ESPN doesn’t even care that anything they do with the NFL is eroding. I think if they had their way they would go ahead and rename themselves ESNBA since the only thing they spend any time covering is the NBA.

  40. Why would the combined ratings of two completely different networks be lumped together to compete against the ratings of a single network? I know it’s the same broadcast, but is still two different channels. In my opinion if ESPN has more viewers than Fox and NFL network separately they still win

  41. This is bad. Major networks can’t afford to
    televise the entire event, and can’t do it
    as in depth the way the smaller networks can.

    FOX will focus on the first round, and
    will pay very little attention to what comes after.
    Football junkies will not be able to see
    all three days of coverage like before.

    FOX will cherry pick and make it an event, but
    will skip the substance, and skim the analysis
    for the later rounds. Profits will take the place
    of Mayock and the others breaking down guys in
    the fifth round.

  42. The bottom line is which blowhards would you prefer listening to, and how the Network actually covers the draft. What loses me is when the next team is on the board or have made their pick and they are still talking about a pick from 2-3picks earlier or just blow over the current pick with no input at all.

  43. I realized recently that I never watch espn anymore and I don’t miss it at all. I’m a hard core sports fan but I can’t get past all of the talking heads that they shove down our throats and I cannot think of the last time I watched an actual sporting event on this station, probably a college hoops game, but I seriously can’t recall. If they’re losing somebody like me who grew up watching this station a lot then they are definitely in trouble because I doubt they are acquiring new fans, while they are certainly losing lots of viewers.

  44. Fantastic. I used to live for ESPN when all they did was highlights and information. When they decided that they needed to broadcast opinions and rhetoric I turned away and no I am basically done with them. I’ll watch an event if it is really important to me but other than that they are so bad that I don’t even think about watching it at all. ESPN thought they were a think tank and no it is just like everything else. The majority of the people out there don’t care what they think so they don’t want to listen.

  45. A “partnership” with the NFL is such a one sided proposition. They have all the leverage. Hopefully that’s changing but it’s not evident yet given the truck full of money FOX has thrown at Goodell for Thursday night football and now the draft.

  46. rgtre10 says:
    February 15, 2018 at 12:57 pm
    The bottom line is which blowhards would you prefer listening to, and how the Network actually covers the draft. What loses me is when the next team is on the board or have made their pick and they are still talking about a pick from 2-3picks earlier or just blow over the current pick with no input at all.
    ……………

    Could not agree more. Especially when your teams pick is the victim of this. I have learned not to get to mad about this these days as I have accepted the fact that they talk BS, it means nothing until your new player hits the field. So what I ido is, see who the player is and utube him, and scan the web.

  47. This is what happens when a company voices its opinions on politics and social issues. No matter what the opinion is, some of the customers will be alienated and the company will lose that customer. Business 101 teaches to leave politics, social issues, and religion at home. ESPN failed to do this and they are reaping what they have sewn.

  48. Ok so I agree espn is a monolith that has some messy areas to clean up.
    Why do I get the sense here on this board that the overwhelming amount of espn bashers are right handed hitters.
    Despite the bashing, gashing, and stabbing of espn on this board, I gag even worse when I turn into FS 1. This is espn reincarnated with Bayless, Cowherd, and lots of other former espn screamers.
    So a lot of you like FS1 more because Fox embellishes a right of center persona?
    The nfl is killing itself with oversaturation—the deal with fox for Thursday Nights is a money grab and nothing else. The ratings are going to tank, and with the draft now on 337 networks this eventually also is going to tank the draft.

    The Nfl is a tailspin and adding coverage and not fine tuning it is not the answer.
    As for the constant espn bashing—as I said I agree they have problems, but please when compared to Foxes garbage and FS1 espn looks like utopia.

  49. Everyday folks on here are shouting about the demise of the NFL. And every few months NFL announces some muli-year, mega million dollar deal with a network or entity that live streams its product.

  50. Covering the draft for 3 days is way too much for any network and any fan. Notice the highlight clips…LBs are unblocked, RBs can’t be tackled, OL gets pancake blocks, WR are roaming free without a defender in sight…and the QBs…100% completion ratio.

  51. ESPN losing control???? Shocking when 95% of their coverage is about lebron or eldrick woods, or race relations, or political correctness. How about espn is done, thank you for revolutionizing sports coverage, now go away.

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