2019 NFL Draft is a big test for ABC

Daniel Roberts
Senior Writer

The NFL Draft comes to Nashville, Tenn., on Thursday, and should be a big boon to the local economy. Last year’s Draft brought a record $125.2 million in economic impact to Dallas, according to the NFL, though economic impact numbers from sports events are frequently exaggerated.

On the broadcast side, this NFL Draft is even bigger for Disney.

A litmus test for ABC

It is the first year that all three days of the NFL Draft will air on ABC as well as ESPN. Last year, Fox was in the mix as one of the networks that aired the first two rounds; this year, Fox has none of the Draft.

On television, this Draft is a Disney affair, along with NFL Network.

Robin Roberts will host the coverage on ABC with ESPN’s “College GameDay” crew, led by Rece Davis and Kirk Herbstreit; on ESPN, Trey Wingo hosts with NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper. By bringing in Robin Roberts, ABC is indicating an effort to make the Draft more accessible to mainstream, non-expert fans. The ABC broadcast will likely focus more on human-interest storytelling than football stats. It should be a litmus test for what Disney wants to do with the Draft in future years.

Last year’s NFL Draft had record TV ratings, and the NFL said 45.8 million people tuned in for at least part of it.

The band Sixwire rehearses on the NFL stage ahead of the first-round NFL Draft, Wednesday, April 24, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. The football draft is scheduled to run Thursday through Saturday. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

How the NFL Draft got so big

For 50 years, the NFL held its Draft in New York City, until 2015, when the league moved it to Chicago. By 2017, when the Draft was in Philadelphia, it became obvious how lucrative it could be, for multiple parties, to take the show on the road.

200,000 visitors flooded Philadelphia and spent an estimated $56 million at the city’s hotels, restaurants, and stores, contributing to $94 million in estimated economic impact.

Dallas in 2018 shattered that figure with the $125 million in impact.

Now officials in Nashville are understandably bullish on what the Draft could do for Music City, which has exploded in the past few years by multiple metrics, with young people flocking to move there and its health care industry hockey-sticking. Tourism is now a $6.5 billion industry annually in Nashville, and 15.5 million people visited the city last year. The NFL Draft will be the largest multiple-day event ever hosted in the city.

All of that is why Butch Spyridon, CEO of the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp., is projecting an economic impact that beats last year’s record set in Dallas. “I think we will have the biggest and best Draft in the history of the NFL,” Spyridon tells Yahoo Finance. “Probably the next step is talking to FIFA and World Cup. We're a finalist to be a host city [of World Cup 2026], we would like to do that, we think this demonstrates that we can compete with anybody on a global stage.”

Even Wells Fargo agrees. In a regional research report out Thursday, Wells Fargo writes, “The NFL Draft is bringing increased attention to the Nashville area, which has been one of the strongest economies in the country this decade.”

Just remember that economists like Allen Sanderson of University of Chicago call economic impact reports “ninety percent nonsense” and Andrew Zimbalist of Smith College calls them “vastly overblown.”

Daniel Roberts is the sports business writer at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter at @readDanwrite.

Read more:

How the NFL made the NFL Draft its 'off-season Super Bowl'

Caesars exec says corporate responsibility helped Caesars score NFL casino deal

Disney+ has a secret weapon: millennial nostalgia

Disney distances itself from gambling, while Disney-owned ESPN ramps up gambling shows

Analyst: Disney should buy Twitter