NFL draft covers all of its bases

The NFL Draft wrapped up Saturday, and despite complaints by some purists, it remains fairly interesting TV programming.

And, no matter your level of interest, it was hard to escape draft coverage this year. Along with ESPN and the NFL Network, ABC and Fox aired the event as well. They took feeds from ESPN and NFL Network, respectively.

The draft’s presence on over-the-air networks as well as cable probably helped boost overall viewership — even if it most likely cut into those watching on ESPN, whose efforts made the event a cult football favorite in the early 1980s and helped boost it to a full-fledged multi-network drama these days.

No team won or lost a game during the three-day event, but several aspects of the draft make it compelling.

From an on-field perspective, a large group of viewers are familiar with the college football players selected because so many of those people watched those players during their undergraduate careers.

Likewise, a football player selected somewhere in the seven-round draft has a pretty good chance at making the cut, so fans are seeing their team change as it happens.

That extent of immediate impact is not replicated with any other professional sport in the United States except the NBA, and even then a late first-round pick can mean less than an NFL selection in the third or fourth round.

As a result, the NFL Draft comes across as part live lottery drawing (a life-changing event for those selected), part reality show (who was picked when, who slid lower than expected and why) and even part season preview.

The draft also has many built-in audiences. Fans of every team, even the Cleveland Browns, seem to have reason for optimism at this time of year. So they probably also have reason to pay a little attention.

They’re not alone, joined by fans of every other team as well as people who follow college football when top players from their program might get selected at the top of the draft. That might sound familiar to some Penn State fans this year.

Sure, there are just as many reasons, maybe more, that the NFL Draft is made-for-TV silliness, but it does produce compelling broadcasts. And the broadcasters, with lists of people by position and overall scrolling across the screen, lots of on-air experts with opinions and generally many happy people to interview, often find a way to make it look good.

Comcast cost

When Comcast pulls the Big Ten Network from its cable systems in states that do not have a Big Ten Conference member later this year, it could eventually ripple to viewers in places where BTN remains a stable on the cable lineup.

That includes Pennsylvania, and while Comcast might not have a huge footprint in Blair County, it does serve many viewers in the wider region.

The ripples could be in the form of higher fees, no matter what cable company offers BTN. After all, if BTN wants to pay its partners (the schools in the conference) at the same level it has been, or at levels those partners expect, it somehow needs to reach those numbers with fewer people paying.

That could mean higher costs for the fewer number of people paying. Eventually.

Or, if fewer viewers equate to less revenue, BTN might be a less ambitious with its approach to game coverage or original programming. Maybe that means less coverage of certain things.

In a worst-case scenario for conference members, the approach could mean less money overall. Now, it’s doubtful BTN officials would want that to happen, and it’s also unlikely there will be any significant knee-jerk reactions.

But it’s hard to believe that losing subscribers in several states (or that subscribers needing to pay more to get access) can be a good thing.

Tuner tidbits

n Similar to its move to drop the Big Ten Network in certain states, Comcast plans to shift the NFL Network to a higher-priced tier on its cable lineup beginning July 1. Comcast owns NBC and the Peacock Network lost the NFL’s “Thursday Night Football” package to Fox in the most recent set of bidding. So, Comcast customers who want the NFL Network will have to commit to the higher-priced package. For the league, which has been dealing with diminishing game viewership, it’s not a good move. It might not impact game ratings and viewership but it does make it harder for some fans to get certain NFL content.

n Proven TV sports pro Dan Patrick recently announced he would not return as host of “Football Night in America,” which precedes “Sunday Night Football” on NBC. The network offered a five-year contract, and Patrick declined. While NBC has Mike Tirico as a strong potential replacement, Patrick seems comfortable with his weekday radio and TV show simulcast. The New York Post reported he was close to signing a three-year contract with AT&T/DirecTV for that work.

Sampsell covers the broadcast end of Penn State football for Gameday. He can be reached at stevesampsell@gmail.com

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