This weekend, NFL Network executive producer Charlie Youck called his own Super Bowl, which is an apt description. The NFL Draft, which begins Thursday, is a huge content industry for both ESPN and NFL Network. As we’ve seen in recent years, the ESPN show will focus on NFL teams, prospects, and how selections will affect play on the court. ABC places more emphasis on storytelling and the backgrounds of the leads. NFL Network attempts to provide a combination of the two. And having big names in skill positions only helps.
“We’re a quarterback-driven league,” said Yuk. “When you have intrigue at the top of the NFL draft with four maybe five quarterbacks in the first night conversation, it makes it more interesting. And then combine that with the fact that I don’t think anyone can really say with complete conviction that they know What happens in first place. We all think it’s (Alabama quarterback) Bryce Young, but who’s going to say that? Reflexes happen…. Business is good in the NFL Draft when there’s a mess, when there’s trades, when there’s a no Certainty, and it’s always good to work up front knowing there’s a solid group of quarterbacks who can be in the top 10.”
“I love having all these quarterbacks and running back[Texas’ Began Robinson],” said Seth Markman, vice president of production at ESPN, ESPN’s equivalent of Yook as the lead person for his company’s NFL coverage. “There are good receivers there too. As producers, we know players in the skill position and especially the quarterbacks really help drive ratings up. The thing that hurt us last year was the number of teams that traded first-round picks. That’s not friendly for us. Last year, Eight teams didn’t have a first-round pick, and that’s eight fanbases that might not be interested.”
Markman and Yook are right to be optimistic about higher chemistry this year. The opening round of last year’s NFL Draft averaged 10.03 million viewers across ESPN, ABC and NFL Network. It was the smallest first-night crowd since 2017. There was only one quarterback selected in the opening round last year (Kenny Pickett in the 20th overall) and the first seven selections consisted of rim rushers, cornerbacks and offensive linemen. Our NFL draft analyst Dane Brugler has four quarterbacks (Young, Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud, Florida’s Anthony Richardson, Kentucky’s Will Levis) in the top 14 in the NFL Draft.
This year’s live show features three networks once again (ESPN Network, ABC, and the NFL) with broadcast prime-time coverage of the first round on Thursdays starting at 8 p.m. ET. Rounds 2 and 3 begin on Friday at 7 p.m. ET. Saturday coverage of Rounds 4-7 begins at noon ET. The ESPN show will be simulcast on ABC on Saturday. After speaking with Yook and Markman, here are some notes to keep in mind as you gobble up the coverage.
Who will appear in each network’s coverage?
ESPN’s head office includes host Mike Greenberg and analysts Mel Kiper Jr. (who will work the 40th NFL Draft for ESPN), Booger McFarland, and Louis Reddick. Suzy Kolber will interview the leads after they are selected (Kolber will get the first TV interview of all single number picks, so she will be first in the #1 overall pick). Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen are Insiders. ESPN will have five reporters stationed at the team’s facilities – Sal Paolantonio (Panthers), Ed Werder (Texas), Diana Rossini (Colts), Jeff Darlington (Seahawks) and Kimberly A. Martin (Lions).
The ABC lineup includes host Rece Davis and analysts Todd McShay, Kirk Herbstreit, and Desmond Howard. Sam Ponder and Robert Griffin III will be on ABC’s second set. Laura Rutledge will be in the green room interviewing the players. The house of Tamil is the insider. David Pollack will join Howard, McShay and Davis on the ABC set for rounds 2-3.
ESPN’s Saturday coverage includes host Davis, analysts Kiper, McShay and Riddick, and longtime analyst Matt Miller, who is making his NFL Draft TV debut.
The NFL Network’s lead group consists of longtime host Rich Eisen and analysts Daniel Jeremiah, Charles Davis, and Joel Klatt. Analyst Kurt Warner will appear on stage with insider Ian Rapoport. Melissa Stark interviews the recruits on stage after their selection (Stark gets the first TV interview of all even-numbered selections). NFL Network’s Rounds 2-3 coverage features Eisen, Jeremiah, Davis, and Klatt again on the main lineup. Peter Schrager joins Rapoport at the theatre. Stark returned to the stage for interviews. The final day of NFL Network coverage consists of Eisen, Jeremiah, Davis, Schrager in the main set, and Rapoport on stage.
NFL Network will have reporters in multiple locations for the teams, including Jody Batista (Jets), Sherry Boroughs (Lions), Bridget Condon (Seahawks), Stacy Dales (Colts), James Palmer (Eagles), Tom Bellicero (Chiefs), Omar Ruiz (Texas) and Gene Slater (Cowboys) and Cameron Wolfe (Panthers).
What’s new in 2023?
One of the things he wanted to change from last year, Yuk said, was to be more consistent with the on-air staff from Round 1 through Rounds 2-3. So Aizen, Davies, Jeremiah, and Clat will have the main group on both nights. In previous years, Stanford coach David Shaw appeared on Opening Night. Yuk said that Shaw will be a part of NFL+ broadcast Outside Los Angeles (This is the NFL Network version of an alternate broadcast.)
Markman said that Kiper Jr. He pressed hard on Miller to join the lead group for the third day.
“I was kind of comfortable with who we put out there, but when a guy like Mel approaches you with an idea like that and wants to share the ball, it’s a rare trait in our business,” said Markman. “We’ve changed the way we broadcast Third Day over the years. Years ago, we were talking about the big picture and doing the entertainment. The last few years, we’ve realized we have these hardcore fans who watch on Saturdays and let’s tell them about every player that gets picked in the draft. So We’re excited to host Matt and continue to cater for more hardcore viewers that day.”
How will Kansas City play a role in the production?
The host city will definitely be a character for NFL Network coverage.
“We had a look at the city with the Super Bowl parade and we saw a million people showing up, so it has to be a character on our show,” said Yok. “Weather permitting, we all feel this would be a really good turnout. The Chiefs attending, Kansas City, celebrities, barbecues, jazz – all of this will be woven into our coverage.”
Markman said ESPN tried to get Jason Sudeikis for Opening Night since Ted Lasso is a Chiefs fan, but the actor had scheduling conflicts.
How many strips of prospects does each network have in its arsenal?
NFL Network has highlights for 600 potential recruits and 1,800 total highlight packages. ESPN has the bar on 500 or so possibilities.
What about commercials?
The opening night of the initial coverage will feature 14 commercials, but the networks are flexible as to when those breaks occur.
“We all agree to burn a break before we go off the clock,” said Yok. “It definitely helps, and then as long as we burn another break before 9 p.m.
What if I can’t access a TV or other device?
SiriusXM will feature live announcements for each draft pick and in-depth analysis on SiriusXM NFL Radio. They will broadcast on location in Kansas City. On-air talent includes host Jason Horowitz and analysts Pat Kirwan, Jim Miller, and Rick Neuheisel.
Anything else interesting?
ABC’s production is more challenging than ESPN’s because they have more elements to go around due to the focus on storytelling and player announcements rather than how a player fits into a team.
“We want to talk to the player and their family members if they’re there, and we want to hear from our guys,” Markman said. “We spend a lot of time on ABC putting together storytelling vignettes because we think viewers will enjoy them. Sometimes the commercials get in the way as the three networks sync up the commercials. We have pre-draft meetings between the networks to determine the stopping spots, and we try to anticipate what If a team is going to have to say offensive lineman, so that might be a good place to take a break. We all need to take breaks together at the same time or it’s going to be a huge mess on the show.
“Part of our goal on ABC is not to overburden the Xs and Os. We mention our ABC talent during the draft that they’re talking to a different audience that maybe doesn’t know the players as well, or doesn’t know the jargon either. There’s a lot on the ABC production plate.”
There are plenty of behind-the-scenes staffers at ESPN and the NFL Network who spend endless hours putting together highlight tapes of NFL Draft prospects. So shout outs to NFL Network Senior Production Director Zack Arnstein, segment producer Ben Fennell, segment producers Chris Jenkins and Nick Schiprow, co-producers Marcus Davis and Aaron Hosenga, and production assistant Christian Gonzalez.
Those responsible for notable tapes appearing on ESPN include Matt Brooks, Jeremy Drummond, Mike Logan, Kyla Burns Hefner, Adam Power, Andrew McConville, Eric Robinson, James Williams, Cesar Becerra, Brooke Stitch, Michael Harvey, and Aaron Cropper. Jason Rickel and Meghan Black were commissioned to create over 500 drawings for Highlights.
Those responsible for the featured strips appearing on the ABC sketch show include Matt Diamond; co-producers Cordell Cumming, Eric Feinstein, and Matt Reed; and production assistants Harry Colvin, Will Desautel, Val Figuera, Roger Max, James Morgan, Erica Plunkett, Christine Taylor and Kyle Taylor.
Episode 295 of the Sports Media Podcast featuring ESPN National NHL Correspondent Ryan Clark and Austin Karp, Managing Editor / Digital Business Journal. In this podcast, Clark discusses the league’s biggest postseason events; How much weight does the ESPN name carry in hockey; press-friendly teams; how the war in Ukraine affected the season; Pride Night Stanley Cup Predictions. and more. Karp discusses the second season of the NHL’s media rights deal with Warner Bros. Discovery, ABC, and ESPN; ABC/ESPN averaged 583,000 viewers for its regular season; TNT averaged 364,000 viewers for regular season games; what do the numbers mean in context; Best Final Match based on viewership; and more.
You can subscribe to this podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Stitcher, and more.
Some of the things I’ve read over the past week that have been interesting to me:
• If you read any of these clips, make it one: Crime scene investigators are the ones who document and remember the unimaginable. This is what they saw at Sandy Hook. By Jay Kirk for The New York Times Magazine.
• Via Robert Cribb of the Toronto Star: Inside the Culture of Fear That Haunts and Punishes Women Who Expose Abuse in Canada Football.
• the athleteRichard Sutcliffe of Wrexham earned promotion out of the National League after 15 years in the wilderness.
• Dominion CEO John PoulosHe wrote a thoughtful article about why his company settled the lawsuit against Fox News.
• My heart implanted and I will die soon. By Amy Silverstein for The New York Times.
• Bestselling author and sea. By Kevin Kochwara on Esquire.
• BuzzFeed News is dead. By Hilary Fry of Slate.
• When will I retire? How about never. By Demetria Gallegos from The Wall Street Journal.
• Faith, family, and fastballs: Clayton Kershaw has always belonged to Dallas. By Mike Bellucci of D Magazine.
• How cable changed sports and what happens when fans cut the rope. By Ben Strauss of The Washington Post.
• Pain, hope and science collide as athletes turn to magic mushrooms. By Marcian Haurilock and Kevin Van Valkenburg from ESPN.
• Attorney and the Disappeared. By Thomas Lake, Kathryn E. Schwecht, and Rosa Flores from CNN.
(Photo: Kevin Sabitos/Getty Images)
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