In an attempt to boost NFL Network’s coverage of next month’s draft, the league is encouraging teams to allow the network’s cameras in their draft headquarters meeting rooms, the latest move to differentiate its coverage from ESPN by giving viewers greater insight into the process.
Last year, almost half the league’s 32 clubs allowed TV cameras inside the teams’ draft rooms on draft day, the league said. The NFL would like to see that number increase and pushed teams to include the cameras during the media presentation to owners at last month’s annual meeting.
“No mandate but encouraged,” said NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy, in an email. “15 teams had them last year. May get a few more this year.”
The Rams opened their draft room to Peter King in 2013, while 15 teams allowed TV cameras.
“We do have videoconferencing with all 32 teams but the ‘war rooms’ have not been a big focus,” an ESPN spokesman wrote in an email, referencing the term many use to describe teams’ draft headquarters. “In recent years, we’ve been more focused on having cameras w[ith] prospects.”
NFL Network averaged 930,000 viewers across its three days of draft coverage last year, setting a record for the network. The audience was up 23 percent from the previous record of 757,000 viewers in 2012. ESPN and ESPN2 averaged 3.04 million viewers for its combined three days of draft coverage, up 4 percent from coverage the prior two years.
The NFL has been moving aggressively to give fans in-stadium during the season a feel of being closer to the game, encouraging teams to use cameras in locker rooms and recently signing a deal with app developer Experience that will let ticket holders buy on-site experiences, such as field access.
This year’s draft is scheduled for May 8-10 at Radio City Music Hall. The event has limited seating and little insider access in any event for those who do attend. There has, however, been greater emphasis placed in recent years on the teams’ draft rooms and on spotlighting how teams arrive at their draft picks. Peter King of Sports Illustrated spent draft day last year in the St. Louis Rams’ room, and Grantland wrote an extensive piece about its access to the Cleveland Browns.
Asked if there were any problems with having cameras in the room, Jim Smith, Atlanta Falcons chief marketing and revenue officer, said, “It really hasn’t been an issue for us in the past. The camera is stationary and the team has input on where it goes.”