5.2 million people watched the four-day NFL Combine on the NFL Network last year.
A week (3 games) of Major League Baseball telecasts on ESPN drew a combined 4 million viewers last season.
ESPN is in 100 million homes, compared with 57 million for the NFL Network
This year’s NFL Scouting Combine kicked off yesterday and will last through the weekend. To quote Allen Iverson: “We’re talking about practice!”
As much as I love football, the combine is still practice; it’s college kids catching and throwing and running races and routes and lifting weights and jumping high but there’s no football being played. How fast a player runs in a straight line does not give you much insight at all into whether or not that player will succeed at the pro level.
Yet still, I’ll watch.
The NFL has been brilliant at understanding what its audience wants and giving it to them. You can really credit Major League Baseball with understanding and pioneering the concept of owned media among sports leagues. MLB understood that die-hard baseball fans who have moved outside of their favorite team’s market would be willing to pay $20 a month to follow their team. Had it been available, I would’ve gladly paid to follow my Minnesota Twins when I was going to school in Iowa. Baseball started charging for online access to their content early in the game and they haven’t looked back.
But the NFL has taken the concept to a whole new level with the introduction, first, of the NFL Network, then combine and draft coverage, and most recently, the NFL Red Zone channel. The next logical piece of the offseason broadcast puzzle would be the Hall of Fame selection deliberations.
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