The first round of the NFL draft will be televised tonight on ESPN and NFL Network, but it probably won’t be the first piece of draft-related content NFL fans have watched. Just this year there have been multiple draft-related content plays, and it will be interesting to see when the market is saturated. The seemingly insatiable appetite for football programming, and the creation of that content, illustrate the ever-present issue for sports channels: Original, exclusive content is necessary for success.
It is not just ESPN and NFL Network creating the content. AOL launched Journey to the Draft, which premiered April 28. Executive producer Deion Sanders narrates the episodes that focus on Leonard Williams, Kevin White and Marcus Peters. The programming is similar to what ESPN did with its Draft Academy, which focused on Jameis Winston, Melvin Gordon and Todd Gurley. NFL Network’s Path to the Draft discusses team needs as well as focuses on prospects.
NFL Network and ESPN have an interest in creating these programs because they promote the networks draft coverage. AOL, and others, look to be making a direct content play. In any case, these types of original programming again underscore the need for content. The scramble is occurring across multiple platforms, and it will be interesting to see how successful the increase in digital programming actually affects the decisions made by more entrenched networks.
Michael Colangelo is Assistant Director at the USC Sports Business Institute and Senior Editor of The Fields of Green.