Disney Makes Deal to Air NFL Draft on ABC and ESPN

The Walt Disney Co., looking to tighten its relationship with the powerful National Football League, made a deal in which ABC will broadcast the NFL draft along with ESPN.

ABC replaces Fox, which broadcast the first round of the draft last year opposite ESPN. ESPN had the draft to itself since 1980.

The NFL Network and ESPN Deportes will also be covering the 2019 draft, in which NFL teams select the top college players as they turn pro.

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Financial terms were not disclosed. Disney moved Monday Night Football from ABC to ESPN more than a decade ago.

Round one of the draft will air April 25 at 8 p.m. on ABC and the three cable networks. Rounds 2 and 3 will also air on ABC in primetime, plus ESPN, ESPN2, NFL Network and ESPN Deportes. The last four rounds of the draft start on April 27—a Saturday—at noon. They will appear on ABC, ESPN, NFL Network and ESPN Deportes.

“ESPN is constantly seeking opportunities to innovate and expand our coverage of major events and the NFL Draft is a perfect example of that. There is no better way to celebrate 40 years of working with the NFL to grow the Draft than to bring the considerable assets of The Walt Disney Company to Nashville,” said ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro. “With ESPN networks and platforms, and the addition of ABC as the exclusive broadcast home to the Draft, we will bring more resources than ever before as we introduce fans to the next generation of NFL players.”

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“The addition of broadcast television for all three days of the 2018 NFL Draft helped to bring this important offseason event to even more fans and resulted in the highest rated and most viewed draft ever,” said Brian Rolapp, chief business and media officer for the NFL. “We’re looking forward to once again broadcasting all three days of the NFL Draft and excited to have another member of the Disney family with us to help grow this event and showcase the future stars of the NFL.”

ESPN said its coverage will be focused on analysis, while ABC’s will look at the players and their backstories. ABC’s broadcast will also feature musical acts.

“We are excited that the ABC stations will be the only broadcast home for every round of the 2019 NFL Draft,” said Brian Lawlor, chairman of the ABC Affiliate Association and president of local media for The E.W. Scripps Company. “By collaborating with ESPN, we are ensuring all fans across the nation can enjoy live coverage of the drama and celebration around drafting pro football’s newest stars.”

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.