Every year at this time, a debate has emerged regarding whether ESPN and NFL Network would tip draft picks before Commissioner Roger Goodell walks to the podium and announces the pick.
As explained by Richard Deitsch of SI.com, ESPN and NFL Network have agreed once again that they won’t report on draft picks before the picks are officially disclosed.
“We want to keep the suspense of the draft,” ESPN senior coordinating producer Seth Markman tells Deitsch. “This is purely listening to the viewers and what they want. It was overwhelming that our consumers, our viewers, our fans do not want us to spoil the draft experience. I know some of our competitors will tweet picks, but they are not telecasting the draft. I am sure there is a segment of the population that wants it as soon as possible, but our responsibility is to our viewers. It’s not some big journalism discussion in my mind. It’s ‘I don’t like angering our viewers.'”
Markman is right. It’s not, as Deadspin has suggested, an effort by ESPN to shill for the NFL. It’s an effort to give the audience what it wants. And the audience, many of whom will be following the draft on Twitter, don’t want the suspense — real or fabricated — to be spoiled.
In 2013, the first year ESPN and NFL Network decided not to tip picks, a whopping 85.37 percent of those responding said they don’t want to know the picks in advance.
So we’ll put up another poll, and you can chime in again with what you want. And if/when the needle moves the other way the NFL and ESPN can reassess their position in 2016.
Until then, the audience gets what it wants — including an oversized face mask on which to gnaw regardless of all of the filthy hands that have touched it. Even when the audience isn’t being smart, smart media companies give the audience what it wants.