NFL, TV networks prep complex Draft production

A veteran ESPN producer says the upcoming National Football League Draft, being conducted in a virtual format for the first time due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, is the most complex event he’s ever seen.

“This is the most complicated event that I’ve personally have been involved with, and I’ve been at ESPN 27 years in June,” said Seth Markman, ESPN vice president of production. “The coordination that it’s taking, the magnitude of the event, the number of feeds we’re bringing in, and we haven’t been face to face with any of our employees…It is damn complicated.”

The disparate broadcast, being shown on ESPN, ABC, and the NFL Network on April 23-25, will include separate cameras for each of the 32 NFL teams’ coaches and general managers, as well as league commissioner Roger Goodell, who will announce the selections from his suburban New York home. In addition, the NFL has secured 58 top prospects, including expected top selection Joe Burrow from Louisiana State University, to also participate remotely with self-installed cameras.

“At last count, there was something in the neighborhood of 170 or 180 various feeds coming from across the country,” said Mark Quenzel, NFL Network senior vice president. “To manage that, we’ve grouped them. We’re running them through video call centers that will collect them and send them onto ESPN in batches to make it manageable.”

The exact layout and background for Goodell’s setup in particular are still being finalized.

The networks will all be adhering to government regulations for social distancing during the Draft production, cutting down and spacing out production crews so they are sufficiently separated from each other. Producers and directors will also wear masks.

“In a normal control room for an NFL Draft, we probably have 15 people in the room and if you add in some executives and sales people, you’re looking at 20,” Markman said. “We are limiting it to seven, and everybody will be at least six feet apart, and it will be more than that.”

The 2020 NFL Draft was originally planned as a multi-day extravaganza in Las Vegas, Nevada.