The biggest non-event on sports TV

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TEXT OF INTERVIEW

MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: Are you ready for the draft? The NFL draft that is. This weekend football fans and fantasy league aficionados will glue themselves to the TV to watch which team picks which player which hopefully translates into a Super Bowl championship. Steve Bornstein used to be the CEO of ESPN and he called draft day the biggest non-event on sports TV. Now that non-event is the second biggest program for ESPN after Monday Night Football. David Carter is the executive director of the USC Sports Business Institute. Welcome.

DAVID CARTER: Good morning.

THOMAS: There are a lot of people who are following this draft, which over the years has really become an event. When did that happen?

CARTER: Yeah it really has. It's grown organically and really pretty rapidly over the last several years. It has this cult-like following, and I think it brings with it this time of year, a little bit like spring training in baseball, this sense of renewal. People want their pigskin fix and the draft is the first part of that. And here we are in April and people are thinking about what's going to be happening come Labor Day when the NFL gets going.

THOMAS: The NFL's pretty masterful when it comes to marketing itself. How does the league build interest for this?

CARTER: It think they've done a few things. They've realized that this has become an event and not just a one-day exercise and I think they've begun to throw resources — human and financial resources — at this. Leading up to this, the league's own called NFL Network has aired a 50-episode miniseries, if you will, called The Path to the Draft. And they're really able to turn it into a great storyline with numerous plots. It seems to work really well for them, and on draft day they have some of these players sitting in the green room waiting to get picked and many times these players fall and that creates great drama when they're sitting there with their head in their hands . . .

THOMAS: Well yeah it's like the Oscars when all the nominees, when the envelope is read, it's like who's gonna get it and who's not.

CARTER: Well that's right. But I think with the draft you have these players, some of them sitting there for hours stewing in their own juices waiting for that pick to come up. And this year you have Joe Thomas who's expected to be a top 5 pick, a lineman out of the University of Wisconsin, and the NFL Network which again is charged with really promoting the league throughout the year, is going to be mounting a camera on his boat while he's out fishing for the day. So they really don't want to leave any stone unturned to make sure that they're getting this information out there to their rabid fans.

THOMAS: Beyond selecting future players, how are the teams and their sponsors involved in the draft day dimension?

CARTER: I think they both realize that there's a huge opportunity at hand and they've begun facilitating draft day parties. I think this year you're going to see teams like the Giants and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers even having 5K runs before the draft and so sponsors realize that the draft and the resources that the teams and the league are putting behind it give them an opportunity, a platform, to market around a three- or four-month period and not just a single day. So they've really marshaled their resources behind the draft as well.

THOMAS: Thanks a lot David.

CARTER: Thank you.

THOMAS: David Carter is the executive director of the USC Sports Business Institute. And in Los Angeles, I'm Mark Austin Thomas. Thanks for joining us. Have a great day.

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