SBD/Issue 155/Sports Media

ESPN, NFL Network Earn Record Audience For Three-Day NFL Draft

A record combined total viewership of 45.4 million viewers tuned in to watch the '10 NFL Draft on ESPN, ESPN2 and NFL Network -- up 16% from last year’s record of 39.0 million viewers. ESPN’s live three-day telecast averaged 3.717 million viewers, marking the most-viewed NFL Draft in the net’s 31 years of televising the event. Viewership for the 14.5 hours of coverage on ESPN and ESPN2 was up 27% from last year's two-day event. ESPN’s coverage of the second round from 6:00-7:00pm ET on Friday night averaged 3.152 million viewers, while ESPN2 averaged 3.369 million from 7:00-10:30pm. The nets’ combined viewership of the second and third rounds was up 6% from last year. The three days of coverage on NFL Network averaged 560,000 viewers, up from 463,000 viewers last year and 280,000 viewers in '07. Total NFL Draft viewership has nearly doubled over the past decade from 23.5 million for the '01 event (Austin Karp, THE DAILY).

Media Members Disagree On Gruden's
Performance During NFL Draft Coverage

THE GOOD & THE BAD: USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand writes ESPN analyst Jon Gruden, along with NFL Network's Mike Mayock, "turned in one of the top performances on NFL draft coverage." But Gruden "seemed to like every draft pick, suggesting that maybe there's no point in riling up players he might end up coaching -- or coaching against" (USA TODAY, 4/26). In Cleveland, Bud Shaw wrote Gruden is "supposed to be an analyst," but he "didn't even pretend to play one on TV during the draft." Shaw: "I just think people like Gruden who have extraordinary insight should, you know, maybe share some of it." But Gruden "wasn't the worst of ESPN's coverage, for sure." That distinction "goes to the packaged graphics accompanying the selections ... where players were forced to clown for the cameras" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 4/25). In St. Petersburg, Tom Jones noted some complain that Gruden "likes everybody, that every team made a great pick in the draft, that every move by every team is the right move." But "if there's one analyst on any of the networks that makes you stop and listen, it's Gruden, who is interesting, funny and honest whenever he speaks." Gruden and Mayock "were the stars of the draft coverage." Meanwhile, ESPN analyst Steve Young "has fallen in love with his own voice" (TAMPABAY.com, 4/25).

EARLY EXIT: PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Gregg Rosenthal reported Gruden was "scheduled to appear on ESPN's main set for day three, but ESPN called an audible" and replaced him with Todd McShay in N.Y. for rounds 4-7. ESPN Communications & Media Relations Dir Bill Hofheimer in an e-mail confirmed that Gruden was "scheduled to be part" of the coverage. Hofheimer said ESPN Senior Coordinating Producer Jay Rothman "gave him the rest." Hofheimer: "It was a mutual decision. Jon could have gone but both he and Rothman knew that ESPN's coverage would still be in great shape with the existing teams in Radio City and Bristol" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 4/24).

Writers Feels Shots Of Players On Phone
Ruining Drama, Excitement Of Draft

RUINING THE SUSPENSE: The ST. PETERSBURG TIMES' Jones wrote the reporting during the draft "has ruined all the drama." Viewers "find out who teams are picking before the picks are announced ... because of the excellent work by reporters at ESPN and NFL Network," and cameras "cut to draft prospects as they are on the telephone with the team on the clock." Jones: "Don't you miss the good old days when the commissioner stepped to the podium and dramatically announced the pick?" (TAMPABAY.com, 4/25). YAHOO SPORTS' Chris Chase wrote the "drama has been killed by the ubiquity of cell phones and television cameras," which is "one huge problem with the NFL draft and it needs to be remedied immediately." Chase: "It ruined the excitement of the draft and it needs to stop. There's no reason a team needs to call a player before the pick is announced. If the league is interested in that, hold the draft behind closed doors. The draft is entertainment -- a television show -- and should be treated as such" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 4/25). SI.com's Peter King: "Every time when ESPN and NFL Network sees somebody over there in the green room or whatever on the phone, they assume they’re on the phone with a team. So they’re giving away the drama before every pick ends" ("PTI," ESPN, 4/23).

INFORMATION OVERLOAD: In N.Y., Phil Mushnick writes "after weeks of begging viewers not to miss its live NFL Draft coverage, ESPN disallowed just that; it was too busy selling ESPN or taking us here, there and everywhere else." ESPN's Friday coverage of the second and third rounds of the draft "looked and sounded like a satire of ESPN: screen-choking graphics, ESPN's cast of thousands, its poor sense of timing and its overall dependence on self-defeating and mindless excesses made ESPN's advertised intentions impossible." The moments "most tuned in to see -- live selections from the podium -- were shown only sometimes" (N.Y. POST, 4/26).

JOKE'S ON YOU: FANHOUSE.com's Milton Kent noted ESPN analyst Matt Millen during Saturday's coverage of the draft was "engaged in an on-air conversation" with analyst Ron Jaworski, and the two "got into a conversation about fried bologna sandwiches." Millen said, "Ask any polack from Buffalo how they like them, right Jaws?" Jaworski "joked back about trying them with fried onions." Kent noted Millen "apologized for the crack ... about thirty minutes later" (FANHOUSE.com, 4/24). Millen said, "I’ve enjoyed a great relationship with Ron Jaworski, very playful over the years, and we jab each other back and forth. ... I meant nothing by it" ("NFL Draft," ESPN, 4/24).

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