Mel Kiper, Jr., is back to headline ESPN's coverage of next month's NFL Draft for the 79th consecutive year, but this year he'll have some extra competition for viewers' eyeballs.
The NFL on Wednesday announced it will partner with FOX to produce competing coverage for the Draft, a hostile move against one of its most important TV partners. ESPN is more responsible for the Draft's popularity than any other entity -- the NFL included -- as the upstart cable network created the market for draft coverage as it looked to fill hours in the early years following its 1979 launch.
But the Draft, of course, is the NFL's property, and for years the league has aired competing coverage on NFL Network. That broadcast is making the jump to network TV this year, as FOX will air Round 1 coverage on Thursday, April 26 and Rounds 2-3 on Friday, April 27. NFL Network will carry Rounds 4-7 on April 28.
And that's not all. ESPN is also competing with itself by complementing its traditional coverage with two new broadcasts: a college-themed version on ESPN2 and a Spanish-language broadcast on ESPN Deportes.
The Worldwide Leader will haul its College GameDay set to the Metroplex for its first-ever Draft show, analyzing Round 1 through a college perspective.
ESPN Deportes will also carry Round 1, and ESPN will run a Spanish-language feed for Rounds 2-3 on ESPN3. ABC will also simulcast Rounds 4-7 on Saturday.
"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," NFL chief media and business officer Brian Rolapp said. "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 NFL Draft will take place at the Dallas Cowboys' AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. More than 100,000 fans have registered to win free tickets to the 20,000-seat NFL Draft Theater that will be put together inside Jerry World.