ESPN Caters to Football-Starved Fans With Primetime NFL Draft Coverage

In 1980, when ESPN first approached the NFL about televising the Draft, then-commissioner Pete Rozelle wondered whether anyone would watch. Thirty-three years later, it’s hard to imagine the NFL Draft as anything less than a made-for-TV primetime spectacle.

Last night, ESPN kicked off its coverage of the 2013 NFL Draft from Radio City Music Hall, presenting the first hour of Round 1 with limited commercial interruption for the second consecutive year. Live coverage of the Draft continues tonight with Rounds 2 and 3 at 6:30-10:30 p.m. ET and concludes tomorrow with Rounds 4 through 7 at noon-8 p.m.

ESPN draft

Reporter Suzy Kolber interviews draft prospects at a stage-left set.

Including its 15½ hours of live Draft coverage and 13 hours of SportsCenter Special: On the Clock shows, ESPN will televise 43 hours of original programming between Thursday and Sunday.

At Radio City Music Hall, where the NFL Draft has taken place since 2006, ESPN has three set locations: the main set, located in the middle of the venue; a stage-left set, where reporter Suzy Kolber interviews draft prospects; and a mezzanine set.

“We’ve done this here now for eight years, and [we] know what to expect,” ESPN Senior Operations Manager Steve Carter said prior to Round 1. “We come in, and, really, it’s [all about] the expectation, the seven rounds of the Draft. I’m trying to make sure that production has all the tools they need to do the show.”

This year, ESPN is deploying 23 cameras, including two RF Steadicams, three jib cameras, and two robotic cameras — located in the green room — that are shared with NFL Network. Having tested several new technologies — involving transmission, fiber, data, and video circuits — to increase bandwidth and reduce costs during last year’s telecast, the network has deployed a similar plan this year.

ESPN truck

NEP Supershooters 25 once again supports ESPN’s production.

ESPN will operate out of NEP SS25 A and B units, which served the network’s Monday Night Football (according to Carter, MNF will get new trucks next season). The remote site will share many of the production duties with Bristol, CT, including graphics insertion: bumps, breaks, draft sequence, and past picks are handled on-site, while virtual banners and signage will be inserted in Bristol.

Glowpoint cameras will be dispatched to all 32 NFL teams for HD video conferencing and will be controlled and integrated from Bristol. More than 300 player-highlight packages have been created, up from last year’s 250-plus.

“We have most, if not all, the player clips that we made in Bristol,” said Carter. “We’ve loaded them to EVS [servers], but we do have file-based content we can push and pull content in both directions from both sites.”

Once again, Chris Berman hosted Round 1 with Monday Night Football analyst Jon Gruden and NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. NFL insiders Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter reported from an additional set.

ESPN will televise 15.5 hours of live draft coverage over three days.

ESPN will televise 15.5 hours of live draft coverage over three days.

Rounds 2 through 7 will be helmed by Trey Wingo with analysts Trent Dilfer, Kiper, and Todd McShay. NFL analyst Bill Polian will join Mortensen and Schefter at Radio City Music Hall.

In addition to the linear broadcast, live coverage of the NFL Draft on ESPN will be accessible via WatchESPN online at, on smartphones and tablets via the WatchESPN app and through ESPN on Xbox LIVE to Gold members.

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