The NFL Draft has long been a sort of sports-media battlefield, with ESPN and NFL Network fighting for viewers on their respective coverage. This spring, however, the draft showdown could be particularly bloody.
Last month we learned that Fox would simulcast NFL Network’s coverage of the first three rounds, adding yet another network to the battle royale. Then, last week, Sports Business Journal mentioned that ESPN planned to simulcast round 4-7 on ABC.
Now, on Wednesday, the New York Post’s Andrew Marchand reports that Fox will lend lead NFL game analyst Troy Aikman to NFL Network’s first-round draft broadcast and lead college football game analyst Joel Klatt to its pre-draft coverage. And according to the Post, ESPN will produce an alternate broadcast on ESPN2 for the first three rounds, and air a Spanish-language broadcast on ESPN Deportes.
Yeah, it’s a lot.
In case you’re struggling to keep all this straight, there are now six different networks that plan to air some or all of the draft. Essentially, ESPN and Fox/NFL Network are calling on their bannermen for a Starks vs. Lannisters-style showdown, in which you can decide who is who.
What makes this impending draft coverage battle so interesting is that sports-media rivals rarely get a chance for true mano y mano clashes. Once in a while you get the Alamo Bowl on ESPN head-to-head against the Holiday Bowl on FS1 or something like that, but in those cases the losing side can claim they had the less exciting game or the less compelling teams. With the draft, the different sides have the exact same content to work with. Who draws better ratings depends fully on which network is stronger and which produces a better product.
Fox’s decision to loan out Aikman to NFL Network’s coverage shows the network is taking the challenge seriously. Aikman has his critics (as do most broadcasters), but he’s the biggest name and most pedigreed analyst Fox has to offer, and he adds some clout to the broadcast. Klatt, meanwhile, supplies a sharp perspective on the college game that most NFL Network analysts can’t provide.
As for which network you should watch the draft on? Maybe try
flipping a coin rolling a die.