SBD/Issue 154/Sports Media

ESPN's NFL Draft First Round Up 26% In Overnight Nielsen Ratings

ESPN Earns 5.4 Overnight Rating For Last
Night's Draft, Up 25.6% From '09 First Round

ESPN earned a 5.4 metered-market Nielsen rating for the first round of the NFL Draft Thursday night from 7:30-11:15pm ET. That rating is up 25.6% from the first round last year, which earned a 4.3 metered-market rating from 4:00-7:30pm on a Saturday. Jacksonville topped all U.S. metered markets for ESPN's telecast with a 10.9 local rating. On NFL Network, the draft earned a 0.95 metered-market rating, up from a 0.66 for the first round last year. Combined, ESPN/NFL Network's coverage of the first round was up 30.2% from last year and 54.7% from '08. Also, TNT earned a 2.1 metered-market rating for Game Three of the Cavaliers-Bulls NBA Eastern Conference First Round in the net's early window, and a 3.0 rating for Game Three of the Lakers-Thunder Western Conference First Round series in the late window (Austin Karp, THE DAILY). CABLEFAX DAILY's Heiges & Arenstein write, "I challenge anyone to proffer a valid argument against the prudence of moving coverage of the draft's 1st round to Thurs night prime from Sat afternoon" (CABLEFAX DAILY, 4/23).

UNDER REVIEW: In Toronto, Ryan Wolstat writes while ESPN's draft crew "loses points for ruining the suspense before most picks by revealing who it would be, the group generally did a good job of keeping viewers absorbed in the event." ESPN analyst Jon Gruden was "stellar," as he was "funny and charismatic." The coverage of QB Tim Tebow was "surprisingly good," as was the "invasion of Dez Bryant's home and his subsequent collapse to the floor owing either to the emotion of the moment, or a flair for the dramatic." Meanwhile, NFL Network's coverage of the draft Thursday was "solid, but unspectacular." The network "subjected us to the woeful work of Deion Sanders," who was "nothing short of awful in his interviewing role" (TORONTO SUN, 4/23). In Albany, Pete Dougherty writes Gruden was "outstanding," as he was "pointed in his opinions and engaging in his delivery." Dougherty added, "Any time ESPN sought input from a reporter (Chris Mortensen, Ed Werder, et al), the information was worthwhile. They were the strength of the network's coverage." Meanwhile, NFL Network host Rich Eisen "may be at least the equal" of Berman, but "unfortunately, any of Eisen's positives were negated by Deion Sanders, miscast in a role of interviewer" (Albany TIMES UNION, 4/23). NBCSPORTS.com's Mike Celizic writes ESPN's analysts were the "usual ESPN suspects, all ... adding very little actual information to the process." Even anchor Chris Berman, "who was created for events like these, was oddly subdued." Still, the primetime debut was a "total success," as it "delivered a spectacle that people love to watch in a form they want to watch it in" (NBCSPORTS.com, 4/23).

CHUCKY, SAY CHEESE: In L.A., Tom Hoffarth writes ESPN should "order up more camera time for Jon Gruden," as so far he has been the "star of the draft." Gruden, with his "devious arching eyebrows and twisted sneer," has "all the makings to be the Simon Cowell of this event" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 4/23). But in Charlotte, Tom Sorensen writes, "Gruden liked everybody. Every pick was good, every player a potential star. If Gruden is accurate, 150 players will be invited to the 2010 Pro Bowl." Sorensen: "Hey, Jon -- Dick Vitale wants his script back." Meanwhile, ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. was "honest and sincere" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 4/23). SPORTINGNEWS.com's Dan Levy writes Gruden has "developed an inability to criticize teams in the league." Meanwhile, Gruden seemed to be doing "more and more of the analysis over the highlights." Levy: "It felt like ESPN had Kiper sitting on the end of the desk doing nothing other than staring at his Big Board" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 4/23). Gruden on-air called both Bryant and RB C.J. Spiller the "prized possession" of the draft ("NFL Draft," ESPN, 4/22). Meanwhile, THE BIG LEAD noted Gruden after a video montage "seemed to be reading a text message to the guys on the set and said ' ... it's a crazy league, a lotta dumb ass ...' but then Chris Berman jumped in to save him" (THEBIGLEAD.com, 4/22).

Did ESPN's Kiper Have Lesser On-Air Presence
During First Round Than In Previous Years?

OTHER TALENT REVIEWS: In Buffalo, Alan Pergament wrote Kiper "didn't get much air time in ESPN's Thursday night coverage, primarily because analyst Steve Young seemed to be conducting a filibuster."  Pergament: "He never shut up. ... Kiper and Tom Jackson were overwhelmed by Young's filibusters. The coverage would have been better if Young had been benched" (BUFFALONEWS.com, 4/22). SPORTINGNEWS.com's Levy writes NFL Net "made Mike Mayock into their star of the evening." The net's on-air talent "deferred to his expertise on everything from player grades to who would be the right fit for which team." Levy: "Mayock felt like an expert on Thursday, and the credit clearly goes to Rich Eisen for that" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 4/23).

TRADING SPACES: In San Diego, Jay Posner writes "all the reporters ESPN has at the NFL draft and the network still mangled the Chargers trade story." The Dolphins traded their No. 12 pick to the Chargers, and after the Chargers took RB Ryan Mathews with that selection, Berman said that the Dolphins "got several draft picks plus linebacker Tim Dobbins was going from 'Miami to San Diego.'" But Dobbins was going from the Chargers to the Dolphins. Berman "managed to top that goof later when he misidentified the team that was on the clock and about to select Tim Tebow" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 4/23). In L.A., Diane Pucin wrote, "Best statement of the coverage so far: ESPN anchor Chris Berman telling us that Miami and San Diego have made a trade. 'Let's get the details,' Berman said. 'We don't have them.' All in the same breath" (LATIMES.com, 4/22).

DON'T TWITTER ME THIS: SPORTINGNEWS.com's Levy writes it was "impossible to miss the fact that Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen from ESPN and Jason La Canfora from NFLN were blatantly announcing picks on Twitter minutes -- sometimes up to five or six minutes -- before the commissioner announced a selection." Levy: "I'm all for scoops, but we aren't sitting around for five hours watching this spectacle of a draft so we can have our picks leaked out before hand. ... I understand that millions of people watch the NFL Draft and no more than a few hundred thousand are following on Twitter, but those few hundred thousand are likely the more dedicated viewers" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 4/23).

Critics Still Split Over Whether Beginning Draft
On Thursday Was A Wise Decision

THE VERDICTS ARE IN: The L.A. DAILY NEWS' Hoffarth writes of moving the draft to primetime on Thursday, "For this NFL chest-thumping experiment to work here, there are too many intangibles, a lot of character issues, even some off-the-chart downside. There's already enough NBA and NHL playoff games sharing space with MLB. But maybe it's just crazy enough to work, as long as the teams making the draft picks continue to fool everyone and stretch out the drama" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 4/23). In N.Y., Bob Raissman writes under the header, "Move Of 2010 NFL Draft To Prime Time On ESPN Won't Go Down As One Of Roger Goodell's Best Ideas." Raissman: "This was just another night of the NFL polishing its brand. Someone thinks the NFL draft is now too big for Saturday afternoon. It must have glitz. It must step out with other star prime-time attractions. Baloney. You can believe the ratings hype. We ain't" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 4/23).

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