SXSWORLD November 2014


Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 23 of 35

2 2 S X S W o r l d | N O V E M B E R 2 0 1 4 | S X S W. C O M f you were offered a live look at one of your many possible futures, would you take it? It is admittedly a tough choice. There's a risk that you will wind up feeling disappointed at what's in store for you, or worse, that you catch a glimpse of an incredible future that will never come to pass. This is why it's good that we live largely in the present. When it comes to sports, though, we're not quite the same. Offered the chance to gaze at one of many possible futures for their favorite professional sports team, fans are increasingly jumping at the oppor- tunity. This explains the rising popularity of televised events like scouting combines, the NBA and NHL draft lotteries, the amateur drafts in baseball, football, basketball and hockey, and the FIFA World Cup Draw. Scott Guglielmino, a Senior Vice President of Programming for ESPN, agrees. "The [NFL] draft is essentially a business meeting. Since 1980, we've been making television out of it. It's impactful for avid fans because they're seeing a glimpse of the future." Fans tune in for draft night to see exactly who they'll be pinning the hopes and dreams of their favorite team on for the next few years. They tune in to see pundits like Mel Kiper, Todd McShay, Jay Bilas or Bill Simmons tell them why the player their team just selected was or wasn't the right guy, and why. They tune in for the trades. They tune in for the characters. They tune in for the storylines. Guglielmino says of ESPN's coverage of the NFL draft in partic- ular, "We not only cover the actual selection process, but we also surround it with a lot of analysis and a lot of different and diverse voices about what teams are doing. Analysis and sourcing builds up anticipation as to whom teams are going to select." The 2014 draft, televised as it has been since the 1980s by ESPN, was watched by a record 45.7 million people across the three days it aired. The first round alone drew 32 million viewers. That is a remark- able number. As a frame of reference, CBS's The Big Bang Theory was the most-watched non-sports television show of the 2013-14 TV season, and it averaged 19.96 million viewers per episode. The 2014 NBA Draft, while not quite as popular as the NFL's, was also televised by ESPN. It was watched by around 3.45 million viewers, making it the most-watched NBA draft since 1995, and indeed the most-watched NBA draft ever on ESPN. The 2014 NBA Draft was also the fourth-most tweeted about NBA event of the year with 2.7 million tweets, according to the Nielsen TV Twitter ratings. Only Games 1, 4 and 5 of the NBA Finals were tweeted about more. Powered by Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater's surprising falls to the back half of the first round, the 2014 NFL Draft was the single most tweeted about sports-related event of the year. Guglielmino says that ESPN is well aware that these live non-game sports events have become just as much a part of the water-cooler conversation on social media as the games themselves: "Social media is part of that entire offering. It's a vibrant platform where fans want to espouse their views and argue with other fans of other teams, or argue points of view." Think the Cleveland Browns did a great job picking up a future first-round selection by trading down with the Buffalo Bills? Tweet it and find out which of your friends and followers agree or dis- agree. Love Andrew Wiggins' draft day suit? Instagram a screenshot. And it is not just the draft that is picking up steam and ratings points. Non-draft events like scouting combines, European soccer's transfer deadline day and especially, the FIFA World Cup Draw, are rising in popularity in the U.S. over the last several years as well. Guglielmino described the viewership growth for the 2014 World Cup draw as "sig- nificant" when compared to the previous draw for the 2010 World Cup. That moment of truth when the United States or another country gets placed in a group raises the stakes for the viewer, who will then know within moments what path his favorite country's squad must take to get to the World Cup Final. The soccer front in general has seen growing interest for ESPN, which has recently seen views spike around the European transfer windows when players can move between clubs. "We are seeing a large uptick in the interest surrounding those transfers," Guglielmino states. "A lot of times they happen at the very end of a transfer window, and depending on the players, they can absolutely change the landscape. That's a great example of a business phenomenon occurring in its actual state, but becoming very, very interesting to people and to fans." Because fans now have round-the-clock access to so much infor- mation about their favorite sports, they are more plugged-in to what's happening than ever before. With the games themselves no longer providing enough of an outlet for all that brainpower they have accu- mulated, these live non-game events are offering an alternative for the die-hard sports fan. SXsports returns to SXSW on March 13-15, 2015. Sessions will be held at the Four Seasons Hotel. See for details. Drafts, Draws and Combines: Devoted Audiences Tuning In by Jared dubin I A L L E N K E E / E S P N I M A G E S E S PN 's cove r a g e of t h e 20 14 N FL d r a f t wa s wa tch e d b y a n es t im a te d 45.7 m il l io n v iewe r s .

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of SXSWORLD - SXSWORLD November 2014