Monday, April 29, 2013

Under Further Review: NFL Draft Ratings Rise Despite Lack of Star Power

If there was one thing more uncertain than which offensive lineman's name would be called number one overall by the Kansas City Chiefs in the NFL Draft this past weekend, it was whether or not the broadcast's television ratings would eclipse last year's marks.  Shown on both ESPN and NFL Network, viewers had the option and spoke with their remotes.

Due to the lack of star power in this year's draft, I thought that we may see a decrease in television viewers.  Last year featured the (mostly media made) battle for the number one over all spot between Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III.  It was compelling and it made even casual sports fans that normally hate the NFL Draft to tune in to see which quarterback it would be (read: my mom).  This year, the first overall selection ended up being Eric Fisher, the offensive tackle out of Central Michigan.  

(For a full NFL Draft media review, check out SI media reporter Richard Deitsch's media column.)

This year was unique because none of the biggest names in the draft were even sure-fire first round picks.  Manti Te'o.  Tyrann Mathieu.  Matt Barkley.  Geno Smith.  Four of the biggest names in the draft, none of them selected in the first round.  The NFL is a league marketed around its skill players, and with only one quarterback and no running backs drafted in the first round, things could have gotten dicey quickly. 

Quick aside: Geno Smith, former West Virginia quarterback and second round draft selection of the New York Jets (go figure), is an interesting case study in media-made stories.  Thought to possibly go as a high draft pick at one time or another, Smith ended up slipping to the second round.  However, he was never thought to be a sure-fire top-10 pick or anything close.  I thought that the media latched onto him a bit too tightly, played up his potential draft position and skill set, and then made his "slip" into a major story.  

However, the ratings went surprisingly well for both ESPN and NFL Network.  ESPN averaged 3.035 million viewers over the three days of the NFL Draft, a mark good for a 4-percent increase from last year.  NFL Network averaged 930,000 viewers over the three days, a 23-percent increase over 2012.  

In hindsight, maybe the falls of the bigger name players did help the networks.  Did enough people care about the falls of the Te'os, the Smiths, the Barkleys, the Mathieus to move the ratings needle?  Potentially.  Both ESPN and NFL Network saw ratings decreases in the first round while both saw increases in their Day 2 (rounds 2 and 3) ratings.  

However, do not look for late round talent focus to become the go-to blueprint for NFL Draft broadcasting in the future.


Kevin Rossi is a pre-junior Drexel Sport Management major with a minor in Communications. Kevin has worked at Double Eagle Golf where he is now Social Media Coordinator and Comcast-Spectacor as their market research intern. Since joining the SMTSU, Kevin has worked his way up the ladder to Vice President. Currently, Kevin is a staff writer for, and he has joined Temple University Athletics Communications for co-op this spring/summer.  Follow Kevin on Twitter @kevin_rossi.

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