The 2016 NBA Draft on ESPN had the network’s lowest viewership since 2012 and lowest rating since 2009. While there were many factors at play, including a fairly weak draft class and a small amount of time between an exhilarating Finals and the Draft, the biggest was likely The Vertical, Adrian Wojnarowski’s NBA website.
The Vertical’s live draft coverage drew good though inflated numbers in large part because it was easier to know what was happening while watching their coverage. Wojnarowski had advertised the Vertical’s show by saying that viewers would be getting news in real time, as oppose to ESPN’s coverage which would not report picks before they were announced. After the 2015 Draft which saw Jalen Rose break down Tyus Jones’ fit on he Cavs when it had already been reported that he was being traded to Minnesota, and Wojnarowski regularly being two or three picks ahead of the broadcast on Twitter, that message hit home.
Even if the Vertical didn’t have Adam Silver announcing the picks, it was just as good to see Chris Mannix, Tom Crean and company breaking down picks before they were announced.
While there are some who enjoy the suspense, too many fans are on Twitter during the Draft for ESPN to be complacent with its audience. They should take this Draft and learn from it. Have Marc Stein and the rest of their insiders report picks as they happen, even if another outlet reports things before they do. Do the same thing for the NFL Draft and allow Adam Schefter to report picks ahead of time so the coverage can focus on analysis instead of needless yelling about what a given team should do.
Their current structure is meant to appeal to an audience that doesn’t have Twitter or even the internet in general, one that depends on television to deliver news.