SBJ/May 8 - 14, 2006/This Weeks News

Web sites’ numbers rise for their NFL draft coverage

Major sports Web sites posted strong traffic gains during the recent NFL draft, mirroring ratings increases seen for ESPN’s TV coverage of the much-ballyhooed event.

NFL.com traffic was up 25 percent over 2005.
NFL.com drew in 7.5 million unique visitors during the April 28-30 weekend, a 25 percent boost from its total for the 2005 draft weekend and up 43 percent from 2004, according to league officials. Like much of its Web competition, multimedia features proved a significant driver for NFL.com, with 1.4 million audio and video clips accessed during the weekend, up 40 percent from a year ago.

ESPN.com, typically the leader in Nielsen/NetRatings’ monthly rankings of sports site traffic, did not disclose specific visitor or page-view counts from the draft weekend, but Hitwise, a New York-based Internet measurement firm, said ESPN.com’s main page drew an industry-leading 7.1 percent of sports-related traffic on Day 1 of the draft and 6.4 percent the following day.

Yahoo! ranked second in both tallies with its primary sports page garnering 5.7 percent of sports-related traffic on the draft’s first day (Saturday, April 29) and 5.5 percent on the second day. NFL.com ranked third both days, according to the Hitwise data.

ESPN.com reported that its traffic during the draft weekend increased 20 percent from 2005. Similarly, Yahoo! Sports reported a 40 percent gain in unique visitors during this year’s draft, in part due to an increased emphasis on original editorial content. FoxSports.com posted a 40 percent year-over-year increase in page views within its draft-specific coverage and a 35 percent increase at its main NFL pages.

“We were certainly pleased with the response to our draft coverage, and it wasn’t altogether surprising given the growth in interest and importance in the draft,” said Brian Grey, FoxSports.com senior vice president and general manager. “The Web provides a really great way to extend the window of this event beyond those two days, and given how much we invested in the buildup, particularly in the week prior, we were able to bring people back for the real-time coverage and analysis.”

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