The networks will try shorter intervals between draft picks, imploring producers to hustle like special-team wannabes.
After sitting through a record six-hour, eight-minute first round last year, even the most diehard NFL draftnik has to be pleased the league has taken steps to streamline the two-day event.
It's not as certain those charged with producing the draft's television coverage are as happy.
Executives at ESPN and the NFL Network seem a bit anxious to see what all these changes will mean. "We'll need to be fleet-footed," said Jay Rothman, senior coordinating producer at ESPN. "It's going to take a lot of discipline for all of the folks on the set because everybody can pile on on every subject matter."
Thankfully, there won't be time to do that any longer. Among the changes:
• The draft will start at 2 p.m. Saturday, three hours later than had been the case, but only Rounds 1 and 2 will be held that day. The third round has been moved to Sunday.
• Teams will be allowed 10 minutes to make a selection in the first round instead of 15, and the time between second-round picks will be seven minutes instead of 10.
• Sunday's portion of the draft will start an hour earlier (9 a.m.) and teams will have five minutes between picks in Rounds 3-7.
The later start time Saturday is beneficial for ESPN and the NFL Network because viewership grows throughout the day. But the reduction in time between picks is going to be interesting.
Teams aren't required to use all of their allotted time to make selections, but they almost always do. This has meant talking heads could ramble on analyzing things and endless pre-packaged pieces could be shown.
"I think it's just going to be a little bit of wait and see how it goes," said Mark Loomis, who will produce the NFL Network's coverage. "The reality is everything is going to be condensed. Especially those first six picks when players are actually at [the draft] and they go up and shake hands with the commissioner and we sit them down for an interview. The next guy is going to be coming up in a hurry."
It's not as if there isn't going to be plenty of time for draft analysis Saturday. Both networks will hit the airwaves at 10 a.m. and go nonstop pretty much the rest of the weekend.
Perhaps the biggest difference viewers will notice is that once the draft starts on Day 1, ESPN and the NFL Network plan to keep things anchored at Radio City Music Hall. Gone will be the sets both networks had at their headquarters.
Rothman's goal is to retain as much analysis and debate as possible on the two sets ESPN will have in New York. "We have found that fans love debate," he said. "They want banter about their team, they want good information with meaning. ... When it becomes a show when you're chasing cards at the podium and reacting to picks, it is less compelling TV."
For those who aren't pleased by the NFL's attempt to scale back, the folks at the league's network have you in mind. Their plan is to use NFL.com as a second channel.
"The content isn't going to go away but it will be in a different place," Loomis said. "We'll give people as much information as we can about the players and teams but we'll definitely drive people to the website."On the move?
The fact the Timberwolves are in discussions with Clear Channel about putting the team's games on FM-talker KTLK (100.3 FM) next season shouldn't surprise anyone.
A terrible on-court performance in recent years is the No. 1 reason the Wolves have fallen off the local sports map, but it hasn't helped that the team's games are carried by a country music station (BOB 106.1 FM) that can be difficult to pick up.
The Wolves got some help late in the season when KGBY (107.5 FM) also started airing games, but it remained a less-than-ideal situation.
KTLK's signal blankets the Twin Cities and is stronger locally than KFAN (1130 AM), which also is owned by Clear Channel and previously carried the Wolves.
So what's in this for Clear Channel?
The 100.3 signal has struggled since going to a talk format, and the Wolves' presence likely would mean some instant cash for the company. The team's past radio deals have involved it buying the air time and then controlling the broadcasts. That almost certainly would continue.Fine-tuning
• For the second consecutive season, the Twin Cities was at the bottom of the 56 metered markets for both TNT (0.4) and ESPN's (0.5) coverage of the NBA. (ESPN's figures were noted last week but TNT's weren't yet available.) TNT's rating in Minneapolis-St. Paul was tied with basketball hotbeds Pittsburgh and Knoxville, Tenn., for last. ABC's coverage had a 1.7 rating here, placing the Twin Cities 43rd.
• Wild radio announcer Bob Kurtz will do play-by-play of five Minnesota Thunder home games this season on KFXN (690 AM), aka The Score. The first match will be the team's home opener May 4 against Rochester. KFXN also will air games on June 14 against Atlanta, July 20 against Rochester, July 27 against Puerto Rico and Aug. 10 against Seattle.
Judd Zulgad • firstname.lastname@example.org