Coverage of the Combine has been carried exclusively on the NFL Network to this point. Curtis isn’t sure it makes much sense for Disney to put three cone drills and 40-yard dashes on TV at all, let alone on network TV.
The only reason it’s on TV at all is the creative desperation of the NFL Network. From its founding in 2003, the NFL Network wanted to find ways to report on and advertise the league without the benefit of airing regular-season games. So the network leaned into a process called “eventizing”: taking content that isn’t a game and producing and selling it as if it was.Bryan Curtis, The Ringer
A source with knowledge of the negotiations told Curtis that the agreement is part of ESPN continuing to thaw its relationship with the NFL, had become icy between the league and the network under former president John Skipper. Curtis credits his source as describing the negotiations this way: “It’s like, what can we do to make sure we’re best friends again?”
ESPN Executive Burke Magnus called the decision part of a “reset” in the relationship between Disney and the NFL. “It’s this draft deal. The combine deal. There were rumors we would not retain our wild-card game. The schedule we got from these guys for Monday Night Football last year. I feel like the NFL has responded to a new day at ESPN relative to the relationship.”