Sources: Fox Getting NFL Draft Coverage Over Next Five Years
Fox Sports will carry the NFL Draft on its broadcast channel for the next five years, sources say. This will mark the first time Fox has aired the event. The news was first reported by Pro Football Talk. It is not known how much Fox is paying for the Draft rights, but the price is built into its recent “Thursday Night Football” deal, sources said. Fox also is expected to pick up an NFL Wild Card game from ESPN, which also was part of the net’s “TNF” deal that was announced during Super Bowl week.
The new Draft deal will see Fox simulcast NFL Network coverage on Thursday (Round 1) and Friday (Rounds 2-3). The two sides still do not know about Saturday (Rounds 4-7), as Fox has commitments this year that may not be able to move. Fox will co-produce the event with NFL Net and will use some Fox NFL talent on the telecast. There is also a possibility that Fox’ telecast will cut away on occasion during the event to use other Fox talent.
The move to put the Draft on broadcast TV is another blow to ESPN, which now is getting more competition for that event. ESPN also is potentially losing its lone NFL playoff game, but that telecast annually gets the lowest viewership among the four games on Wild Card weekend. ESPN first started covering the draft in ’80 and was the most influential media company in popularizing the event. NFL Net started covering the Draft in ’06, competing with ESPN for viewers. The '17 Draft saw viewership climb 6% across ESPN, ESPN2 and NFL Net compared to '16, fueled by record figures for the league-owned net for the second straight year. For three days of coverage, NFL Net's viewership figure accounted for 33% of the Draft audience, up from 30% in '16 and up from 26% in '15. ESPN and ESPN2 also saw a slight uptick for three days of Draft coverage in '17.