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Volume 25 No. 239
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Disney Airing Draft On Both ESPN, ABC With Eye On Future NFL Rights

Pitaro has worked hard to better ESPN's relationship with the NFL since becoming president of the net
Photo: espn images

Both ESPN and ABC will broadcast the NFL Draft tonight, the "clearest signal yet" of Disney's desire to "stay in the good graces" of the NFL, according to Brian Steinberg of VARIETY. ESPN's current deal for "MNF" expires in '21, and there has been "growing speculation the company would like to do something bigger with its main football property." The Disney-NFL relationship a year ago "appeared strained," as ESPN was "giving new emphasis to the NBA." The situation "hit a new low after the NFL gave rights to broadcast the Draft to Fox last year, alongside ESPN." But now the mood "has changed." Under ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro, execs have "worked to 'reset' relations with the NFL." In "quick order, 'MNF' had a new on-air team; football started getting new attention on ESPN's 'Get Up' morning program" and "prominent personalities who expressed reservations about the sport were moved elsewhere in the empire" (VARIETY.com, 4/22). In Chicago, Phil Rosenthal noted ABC airing the Draft is "not so much about scoring ratings" as it is about "scoring points with the league." ESPN "wants to keep in the NFL's good graces and keep the NFL -- whatever it takes." Additionally, the net "wants solid matchups" on "MNF," something it "hasn't always been able to count on from the league" (CHICAGOTRIBUNE.com, 4/24).

CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE: ESPN VP/Production Seth Markman said the broadcasts on ESPN and ABC "will be unique," as they will give the viewer a "choice not only on the talent on each show but also the content around it." THE ATHLETIC's Richard Deitsch noted the ESPN show "will be the same [as] it has been for 40 years," aimed for the "hardcore NFL fan that wants to find out the player who is picked and how they fit into that organization." Markman also said the ABC broadcast will be "more about what the player was like in college, what his journey was, who he is, and what kind of player he will be" (THEATHLETIC.com, 4/22). Robin Roberts, who is hosting ABC's coverage, said, "We talk to Nick Bosa and following the family legacy. One player had a speech impediment. We have so many vignettes to show why this moment is important" (AP, 4/24). ABC also will "offer features such as a sense of the scene outside the draft itself in Nashville" (NEWSDAY.com, 4/22). 

CHANGING OF THE GUARD: In Chicago, Jeff Agrest noted NFL Network's "new lead draftnik" Daniel Jeremiah takes over for Mike Mayock after Mayock was hired earlier this year as Raiders GM. Jeremiah has been with NFL Net since '12, but this is a "step up in class." However, Jeremiah "has what Mayock didn't: professional scouting experience." NFL Net Coordinating Producer Charlie Yook said, "We haven't changed our planning. So that speaks a lot to what Daniel brings to the table. We've continued to push the envelope, challenge him to do more, watch more tape, give us more breakdowns, give us more player comparisons, and he hasn't blinked one iota" (CHICAGO.SUNTIMES.com, 4/20). THE ATHLETIC profiled Jeremiah under the header, "Scout's Life: How Daniel Jeremiah Went From The 20/20 Club To NFL Network."

CALLING IT LIKE THEY SEE IT: THE ATHLETIC's Deitsch noted Yook "pledges that Mayock will get no special treatment" from NFL Network during the Draft despite his years of service with the outlet. If an analyst "does not like one of Oakland's selections ... Yook says viewers will hear about it." Yook: "If he makes a bad pick, we are going to let our viewers know we don't love this pick. We are not going to provide any favoritism" (THEATHLETIC.com, 4/22).

HONKY TONKIN': In Nashville, Erik Bacharach noted Tootsies Orchid Lounge is the "perfect venue to create a set" for NFL Network's coverage of the Draft. Yook said, "It's an iconic honky-tonk, it's right on Broadway, and it gives us the sight lines that we wanted." Construction on the two-story, 30-by-30 foot building that "connects directly to the front of Tootsies" began last Monday. The bottom floor will "serve as a walkway to the main entrance of Tootsies, and the second floor will be where NFL Network broadcasts from" (TENNESSEAN.com, 4/22).