The NFL Draft long has reigned as the biggest non-sports event sports event on the calendar, and TV executives treat it as such – starting when ESPN invented the concept in 1980.
The wrinkle this year is a return to semi-normalcy in Cleveland after last spring’s edition headquartered in Roger Goodell’s basement in Bronxville.
Mike Greenberg, who will host for ESPN for the first time, said he studied tapes of old drafts "to get a feel for the timing and everything," and started with Nashville, 2019.
"That’s only two years ago, but my God, I was there and that seems a lot longer than two years ago," he said. "I had forgotten the big crowds on Broadway.
"This is not going to be that, obviously, but it is going to be a lot closer to what feels normal, I think, to the viewer than what we had last year."
Disney, ESPN’s corporate parent, sent a news release of about 2,400 words detailing its coverage plans, so four decades in, it continues to nurture its programming baby.
The release said coverage will include 1,500 creative elements, 450 highlight packages and 35 player vignettes, using 50 cameras and more than 50 microphones in Cleveland, with more than 40 cameras at the homes of draft prospects and 32 in draft rooms of the 32 teams.
(No word on whether Bill Belichick’s Alaskan Klee Kai dog will be invited into the Patriots room after making a well-received national TV debut during last year’s draft.)
Greenberg will host Thursday and Friday night on ESPN with analysts Mel Kiper Jr., Louis Riddick and Booger McFarland, plus reporters Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter. Suzy Kolber will interviews draft picks.
The NFL said 13 draft prospects will be on site and another 45 will participate virtually.
On ABC and other Disney/ESPN properties
Disney also will carry the event on ABC, where Rece Davis hosts a human-interest oriented telecast the first two nights, joined by Kirk Herbstreit, Desmond Howard, Todd McShay, Maria Taylor, Jesse Palmer and David Pollack.
On Saturday, ABC and ESPN will combine for coverage of the last four rounds, using Davis, Kiper, McShay, Riddick, Mortensen and Schefter.
Coverage begins at 8 p.m. Thursday, 7 p.m. Friday and noon Saturday.
Disney’s Spanish-language telecast will be carried on ESPN Deportes, and its draft coverage will be seen in many countries outside the United States.
ESPN Radio’s coverage the first two nights will be hosted by Elle Duncan and Kevin Negandhi, with Bart Scott, Mike Tannenbaum and Ian Fitzsimmons.
On NFL Network
After sharing coverage with ESPN last spring, the NFL Network is back with its own version, as well as its own 2,400-word news release.
Rich Eisen will host, joined on Thursday by Daniel Jeremiah, Charles Davis, David Shaw, Kurt Warner, Joel Klatt, Ian Rapoport and Melissa Stark, who will interview drafted players.
Friday’s second and third rounds will have Peter Schrager and Chris Rose join Eisen, Jeremiah, Davis, Klatt, Rapoport and Stark. On Saturday it will be Eisen, Jeremiah, Davis, Schrager and Rapoport.
The network will have reporters assigned to key teams, including Kim Jones with the Jets, who pick second, 23rd and 34th overall.
ESPN and NFL Network also will have extensive pre-draft coverage on television, as well as digital coverage. So will the teams involved, on their own websites. And so will Newsday.com.
SNY will air Jets draft coverage before and after Thursday night’s first round, for one hour at 7 p.m. and for a half-hour at midnight, then will have a one-hour recap show ay 6 p.m. on Sunday.
Steve Gelbs, SNY’s Mets reporter since 2015 and a lifelong Jets fan, will host the draft coverage as well as Jets studio coverage beyond that for the coming season.
"This expanded role means a lot to me," he said in a news release. "Growing up, my Sundays were spent at The Meadowlands with my family. Section 320, Row 22 was like a second home for us. As a lifelong Jets fan, I know the unique passion of this fan base, and I understand the importance of strong programming to reflect it. I can’t wait to get going."