Prime time. It remains the most coveted spot in media, that period from eight until 11 that makes careers and brands in entertainment, and now in sports. The US Open women’s tennis finals now lives there, and the US Open golf will move partially into that space on the east coast this year. It is where the NHL and the NBA launch their new faces with their draft every year, and now where the NFL will show its first round for the first time ever this coming Thursday, at least for one round.
Now the NFL has had no issues with gaining exposure for the Draft during its two day long Saturday-Sunday format of years past. Draftniks and fans would flood websites and tune in to ESPN to watch their teams selections not just through the first round, but through every round, even in recent years when later rounds moved off to the NFL Network.
There seemed to be no satisfying the detail to which fans would follow who their teams would take round after round. Still, in this time where every league is looking for more ROI and a bigger type of entertainment splash for the casual fan, there was an impetus to move at least that round where there is a bigger casual interest…the first round…from its Saturday late morning spot into a nighttime event. It has worked for the NBA especially, who has turned draft night into a marketing platform with events for fans in virtually every city, and has made the annual lottery into its own virtual stand-alone event, eventhough the odds of a team moving to grab the top spot are still remote.
Bottom line is, the lottery is a sellable, stand-alone event, replete with signage, backdrops and commercial time, and so is the Draft. So if the NBA can make its two round draft into a prime time made for TV event, why can’t the NFL, the league which is perhaps best at creating drama for fans of all backgrounds on a weekly basis? The move to prime time for these athletes…really any athlete…brings with it a cachet of even more widespread exposure and entertainment value, at a time when all fans are craving more and more access and inside information from any star. Is it too much too soon for players who may take a few years to succeed on the big NFL stage? All depends on the athlete.
However for an overall new platform for branding and offseason exposure, the NFL has once again created a slot that they did not have before…one that can and will continue to develop into much more of an entertainment and sponsor-driven event than one that has to do with the actual playing of the game of football.
If those ancillary dollars and events do bring value to the league and the teams, and give the fans some added interest, then great. There certainly is no harm in adding a little more life and value into a quiet Thursday night in April, and the NFL certainly knows as well as any property how to give a quiet night life…just look to the fall for Monday’s Sunday’s and select Thursday’s to see what they have done there. Welcome primetime NFL Draft Show and all its partners. After all, Prime Time is where all want to be, whether it is sports or entertainment.