The popularity of the NFL Draft has increased throughout the years. ESPN played an integral role, broadcasting the draft exclusively from 1980-2005, turning it into a must-see event. The NFL Network joined the party in 2006, giving the league expanded coverage, and an even bigger feel to one of its most important off the field events.
But the future of the NFL’s offseason spectacular is likely to have a different look. FOX has been given the green light by the league to create on-air programming for the NFL Draft, and according to Michael McCarthy of the Sporting News, NBC and CBS could televise the event in coming years.
McCarthy says the league’s contracts with FOX and ESPN don’t promise exclusivity on coverage. Last year’s first night of the draft was seen by 6.7 million viewers on ESPN and another 2.5 million on NFL Network, according to the New York Times. With six quarterbacks potentially being chosen in the first round this year, and both New York football teams selecting in the top 3, expectations are that the audience will be even stronger for the 2018 NFL Draft.
Some league executives are hopeful of the draft becoming the sports version of the U.S. presidential election. That event is carried by most national networks, and although the 2018 Draft will be broadcast on six TV channels (FOX, ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Deportes and NFL Network), it’s clear the NFL wants more.
The league has shown that it’s willing to change things up to grow its ratings and revenue. In recent years the three-day affair was moved away from Radio City Music Hall in New York. Cities can now bid for the right to host the draft, similar to what they must go thru to gain the rights to the Super Bowl, WrestleMania and the Olympics. Over 70,000 fans attended last year’s draft in Philadelphia, and more than 100,000 are expected this year in Arlington, Texas.