The NFL moved Scouting Combine workouts from daytime to prime time in an effort to boost ratings on NFL Network, and those ratings were indeed boosted.
Thursday’s live coverage of the Combine averaged 322,000 viewers, a 119 percent increase over last year’s Day One, which aired from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday night’s peak rating, which NFL Network achieved from 9 to 9:15 p.m., was 517,000 viewers.
That’s certainly a substantial increase, but considering how big a change the NFL was making to get the event in prime time, an average of 322,000 viewers may be disappointing. The personnel people who are doing their jobs at the Combine were virtually unanimous in their opposition to the change, and the decision of many of the top prospects not to work out this year may have been motivated by the change of schedule, which had some prospects and their agents complaining that they were particularly tired by the grind of the event.
To give an indication of what kind of audience 322,000 viewers is, last year NFL Network aired two Alliance of American Football games in late February, and those two games had 515,000 and 419,000 viewers. No one was calling the AAF a hit show.
But now that the Combine is in prime time, it’s probably staying in prime time. The next question facing the league will be whether moving it out of Indianapolis and to Los Angeles will turn it into the big TV event the NFL would like to make it.