The NFL said its annual draft of college players into the league, usually a big ratings generator for ESPN, this year will also be covered by the Fox broadcast network during the first three rounds.
The league said that ABC will be carrying the drafts late rounds on broadcast, marking the first time all seven rounds of the draft are carried on broadcast.
“The opportunity for Fox to help shape the stories that are told around such an energetic and optimistic time for NFL fans is definitely a place we want to be,” said Mark Silverman, President, Fox Sports National Networks.
Fox has increased its business with the NFL, acquiring the league’s Thursday night primetime package in addition to its Sunday NFC games.
Four cable networks—ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Deportes and NFL Network will also be covering the NFL Draft. Fox and ESPN's digial properties will have Draft coverage as well.
The expansion of draft coverage hurts ESPN, whose relationship with the NFL has been strained by its coverage of NFL issues including the prevalence of head injuries.
“The NFL Draft is a unique event on the NFL calendar where the promise and excitement of the future is universally felt among fans, players and clubs,” said Brian Rolapp, Chief Media and Business Officer, NFL. “Fan interest in the NFL Draft grows year after year, and we are excited for the opportunity to meet that demand with expanded draft coverage including a record six television networks, while deepening the relationship with our trusted broadcast partners ESPN and Fox.”
The 2018 NFL Draft on NFL Network and ESPN/ESPN delivered a combined 2.9 household rating, up 2% and 4.6 million viewers, up 6% from the previous year.
“ESPN has presented the NFL Draft for nearly 40 years and we take great pride in finding new and exciting ways to continue to elevate and differentiate our coverage,” said Burke Magnus, ESPN Executive VP, Programming and Scheduling. “The draft is the perfect intersection of college football and the NFL, so giving fans the opportunity to experience Round 1 through the lens of College GameDay makes perfect sense. Building off the success of our NFL Wild Card and Pro Bowl simulcasts, we are also excited to present the NFL Draft on ABC for the first time with Saturday’s coverage of Rounds 4-7.”
NFL Draft coverage simulcast on NFL Network and Fox will be produced by NFL Network and feature co-branding, as well as a mixed team of NFL Network and NFL on Fox on-air personalities. Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback, three-time Super Bowl champion and Fox lead game analyst for NFL coverage Troy Aikman joins live coverage of Round 1 of the 2018 NFL Draft, alongside NFL Network’s Rich Eisen, Mike Mayock and Daniel Jeremiah, and Stanford head football coach David Shaw.
Additionally, Fox’s lead college football game analyst Joel Klatt joins pre-draft coverage of Rounds 1-3, as well as live coverage of Rounds 2-3 on Friday, April 27, which also features NFL Network/Fox talent Charles Davis and Peter Schrager, and NFL Network’s Chris Rose.