NFL Draft: Interview with NFL Network VP Charles Coplin

While at the NFL Draft Saturday I had the chance to speak to Charles Coplin, VP of programming for NFL Network. I asked Coplin what went into the network’s draft coverage, how it stacks up against other NFL events, and what the results of the draft could mean for NFL Network programming going forward, among other things.

Q: How have you been preparing for the network’s draft coverage?

Coplin: “We’ve been covering this thing for four months, but in terms of today, we went on the air at 11 a.m. with a four hour pregame show, we’re covering everything that moves at every angle, we’re in five different locations, we’re ready when things happen today, to either go as scripted or call an audible if things go a different direction.”

Q: From a production standpoint, what goes into producing an event like this, and how does it stack up to other NFL events?

Coplin: “For us this is about as big as it gets, obviously the Super Bowl is very big and our coverage there, but our production guys, Eric Weinberger our executive producer and Mark Loomis in the truck have the option of going with two sets here, they have the option of going to Los Angeles where we have some of our other talent and then obviously we’ve got guys stationed around the country at various team sites to report on what moves are made throughout the day.”

“I think the draft is an animal unto itself, it’s a little bit like covering a news convention, except that there are so many different ways that you can go, from a production standpoint I think Eric and Mark have the biggest challenge of any show they do here because you are essentially covering a static activity, but the implications of what’s going on with 32 teams, with countless numbers of players, general managers etc. are so enormous, that you have to have the resources to be able to follow the stories, that’s a lot different then covering a game, where you are basically covering what’s happening on the field, or even covering an event like the Super Bowl or the Hall of Fame, where you are essentially at the mercy of what’s going on. The implications are so far-reaching that this is one of the hardest shows you can possibly do.”

Q: How will the choices made at the draft affect NFL Network coverage going forward?

Coplin: “It wont affect our coverage in terms of what our plans are but it will affect the way we talk about certain teams, certain players, certain coaches and certain general managers. If stories develop that we think are worth covering, we will devote more attention and more resources to it, but our programming is put together to follow whatever will happen today and in the months ahead, I mean, this is all we do, we are expected to move with it.”

Q: Do you have high hopes in terms of viewers for this year’s draft? How many do you want to have?

Coplin: “There’s no minimum and there’s no maximum, so we think this event grows every year, we think our fans are getting more and more educated and more and more passionate, certainly the network has been responsible for that, and our other shows like the Combine and Path to The Draft are creating a demand and an interest for all this off-season programming. And I think in the age of free agency and the salary cap, what fans are starting to realize is that championships are built this early in the year, and that obviously you’ve got to play ball in September October and November, but that a lot of decisions that are being  made today and in the months prior to today will affect the fortunes of teams, and fans are a lot more savvy about that the they used to be.”

Q: You are streaming the draft on, what is the benefit to tying the website into your television coverage?

Coplin: “I think that if you’re watching today, on or on NFL Network, they are a complimentary piece, both in terms of news and information side, and in terms of the entertainment side, to consume more and more football, and I think there is very little doubt that if you are tuning in today, the drama, the activity, and everything that is going on leads into a storyline that as everyone knows is now a 12 months of the year viewing opportunity.”