Monday, April 25th, 2011

opsis | Sports

April 2011


Good morning. It’s Monday, April 25, 2011, and this is your weekly Sports article and editorial from Cyn opsis.  If you’d like to comment on this story, there is a space for that below the article.  Look for more of these in the future!

Despite Labor Strife, NFL’s Draft Week is Top Pick for Networks

By Chris Pursell

Following the debut of the NFL draft in primetime last year, the sports media world will once again turn its eyes to New York this week to see the future of players and teams alike unfold with every name that gets announced.

Last year, 45.4 million people tuned in to the proceedings, a 30 percent spike from 2009 and a jump of 55 percent over 2008. Now, even with a labor lockout grabbing headlines for the country’s most popular sport, media platforms are looking to leverage the nation’s continued fascination in football to maximize audiences.

“It’s as close as we get to the Academy Awards in this business,” said Eric Weinberger, executive producer for NFL Network. “It’s a great rush, it’s a great pace, it’s combining the speed of sports and the decision making the GMs have with a big event primetime awards show because each move affects the next move. So as a producer and as a director, you are focusing on content as much as you’re focusing on the look of the show.”

Officially, the draft will begin a half hour later this year, with the first round airing at 8pm on Thursday. Rounds two and three run Friday at 6pm and the remainder of the picks will take place Saturday at noon.

“Regarding the move to primetime, I think from the ratings perspective it proved out to be a huge success doing that,” said ESPN Senior Coordinating Producer Jay Rothman. “And from a television perspective, I like it a lot. The first round is unique unto itself. A lot of players will be at Radio City. There is a tremendous buzz in the building, it’s electric, and it’s just a great vibe and special night.”

ESPN will be televising the NFL Draft for the 32nd consecutive year on ESPN, ESPN2 with 16 hours of coverage during the event as well as 19 hours of SportsCenter Specials during draft week. Coverage will also run digitally on and the Watch ESPN app with the first two nights in primetime from Radio City Music Hall. On draft day, viewers will be able to watch red carpet interviews, live shots of prospects in attendance, as well as analysis segments with Sports Science host John Brenkus.

Over on NFL Network, the channel will be bringing viewers more than 38 hours of live coverage throughout the week, including a primetime special on Wednesday of Mike Mayock’s Mock Draft.  Then on Thursday at 1pm, the Total Access Pre-Draft Show Presented by Lexus will offer coverage from coast-to-coast with reports and analysis from 40 on-air personalities from Los Angeles, New York and team facilities around the league.

“The next phase for us is the collaboration of NFL Network, and NFL Mobile and have that take our coverage to another whole broader scope of awareness for the fan,” said Weinberger. “It’s more than the ratings, and it boggles my mind to know that during our show, the combined audiences of television, online and mobile will all be a part of the experience.”

On Facebook, the league is giving fans a voice via polls with Strong Pick? Wrong Pick? Presented by Castol.  Other platforms will house webisodes, forums, and NFL 2011, an app available on the iPad for the first time.

This will be the most social draft in the history of the National Football League,” said Jeff Berman, GM of NFL Digital Media. “The fans voices are going to be heard like never before. The 2011 Super Bowl was the most tweeted event ever and building on that success, we are offering Tweet the Draft presented by Verizon, which is a unique interactive experience available on, integrating fan’s predictions and reactions with those of NFL draft experts.”

One channel that isn’t airing the draft but is nevertheless capitalizing on the growing interest is the newly rebranded CBS Sports Network. Last week, the channel began airing a series of six one-hour shows previewing the draft from the professional and college perspectives entitled Inside College Football: Draft Special Presented by Sears.

Executives at the channel noted that the outlet’s strong following among college football fans provided the network with an opportunity to tell a new side to the story, and embrace new and core viewers alike.

“We went through this rebrand just a couple of weeks ago and we felt that this type of programming would help pave the way as we look toward future expansion of our lineup,” said David Berson, Executive VP, CBS Sports and President, CBS Sports Network. “We’ve always been a destination for football fans, and there are two huge fan bases in both pro and college which also overlap a lot. So for us, it’s a way to dive back into the sport for a several week period.”

Of course for all networks, the question remains as two whether fans will be upset over labor strife and turn away, or if the growth trend will continue.

“I think the fan interest is going to be tremendous,” said Rothman.”My personal opinion is fans are so fatigued by labor talks and the CBA and mediation and courtrooms that they’re dying for football.Maybe I’m in the minority, but I believe that interest is going to be greater than ever. They’re dying to learn about these kids that are coming to their teams. They’re dying to talk about football and hear about football, and that’s what we plan on delivering for the draft. So I expect the ratings to be higher than they’ve been in the past.”

In My Opinion

People who don’t like watching the draft probably have a good reason; it’s a celebrated list of names being read. But the spectacle delivered to the show from the NFL outlets and ESPN creates a tension unlike anything in sports not played on a field. Instead of coach vs. coach or player vs. player, we see businesses trading positions like commodities. Fans suddenly learn names of players they never heard of during their tenure in school and study YouTube videos in preparation of their own mock drafts. The resources being dedicated to the event by the networks continue to drive heavy fan engagement because to them, the future will look beautiful and full of potential for at least one day. Who couldn’t love that?

Off the Field

Dick Ebersol, Chairman of NBC Sports Group on paying for rights to NHL games: “Our wonderful (for us) run of not paying for a number of years is over with this deal. I know that brings great happiness and pride to our friends to the right.”

MLB Commissioner Bud Selig on taking over operations of the Los Angeles Dodgers: “The Dodgers have been one of the most prestigious franchises in all of sports, and we owe it to their legion of loyal fans to ensure that this club is being operated properly now and will be guided appropriately in the future.”

Dr. Jon A. Steinbrecher, Commissioner of the Mid-American Conference, on why the conference added the University of Massachusetts: “The UMass football program will add quality to our conference’s football programs and balance our divisions. In addition, this addition allows our conference to expand our footprint into New England and into the Boston and Hartford/Springfield markets.”

ESPN NFL Analyst Jon Gruden on a salary cap for rookies: “In some ways I agree with that. I think performance is what should be rewarded. Sometimes when you see a guy get drafted who hasn’t performed at all in the NFL become your highest priced player, that doesn’t seem logical or realistic to me. So hopefully they get this resolved. The guys that perform and play the best I think are entitled to the highest salaries.”

Comment freely below as to what you think about this story, about the idea of our having a Sports related edition, or anything else on your mind.  Or, email Cynthia at [email protected] or email Chris Pursell directly here.

Later — Chris
Chris Pursell for Cynopsis | Sports
April 25, 2011

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