ESPN’s decision to broadcast two hours of the NFL Scouting Combine – a week-long showcase where college football players perform physical and mental skills in front of coaches, general managers and scouts – on big-sister network ABC represents a further thawing of relations between the two parties.
On Saturday, March 2, ABC will air on-site coverage of the quarterback and wide-receiver drills at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
In addition, ESPN will host multiple editions of NFL Live from the Combine, an event that is usually confined to the NFL Network but will now be on broadcast TV for the first time.
The NFL was believed to be unhappy with ESPN’s reporting of the league – in particular on brain injuries – which resulted in less attractive match-ups compared to other rights-holders.
New ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro has looked to repair the relationship between the pair after taking over from predecessor John Skipper. A first move was made by securing a deal for ABC to televise all three days of April’s NFL Draft in Nashville.
Asked about ESPN and the NFL’s relationship status, ESPN executive Burke Magnus told The Ringer: “I think it’s in a wonderful place right now. I feel like the NFL has responded to a new day at ESPN relative to the relationship….the reset has been done.”