Long-time NFL Network executive Eric Weinberger chronicles the history of the NFL Draft

Eric Weinberger isn’t just “on the clock.” He helped start it.

Over the last 20-plus years, the Los Angeles-based media executive has been influential in transforming the NFL Draft into must-see TV. When the first draft was held in 1936, it was an isolated, closed-door meeting. Now, the NFL Draft is now a full-on spectacle. It’s a year-long obsession that culminates into a three-day media extravagance. It transcends sports. It’s entertainment.

To say Eric Weinberger was instrumental in ushering the NFL Draft into the digital age is an understatement. He excels at live production and long-form story-telling, specializing in “event-isizing” non-game content. This unique skill set led to his promotion as the NFL Network’s first-ever Executive Producer. In this role, he launched the company’s coverage of the NFL Draft, training camps, schedule releases, and other off-the-field programming.

For his work, Eric Weinberger has won multiple Sports Emmy awards. Beyond the NFL Network, he has created equally innovative content with Fox Sports, HBO, and The Ringer Media Group. He currently serves as President of Bleav Podcast Network, where he works to develop, produce, and monetize individual team podcasts. He has also started EW Productions, his own production company.

Although Eric Weinberger won’t be in a war room or on set for this year’s NFL Draft, it doesn’t mean he’s not interested. Like many others, he will tune in. But, unlike the millions of fans, he’ll know he had a hand in building this machine.

Using his insider knowledge, Eric Weinberger shares a brief history of pivotal moments that have defined the media coverage of the modern NFL Draft.

ESPN televises the first draft.

It seems like a no-brainer now. But, at one time, the thought of televising the NFL Draft was considered novel. In fact, it was considered out-of-the-box.

In 1980, ESPN was just a start-up trying to scrape by. The new station’s radical idea to cover the event was met with skepticism. In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Chris Berman recalls questioning who was even going to watch. The concept “sounded like reading names from the phone book,” he said.

What began as rudimentary coverage evolved into an entire cottage industry. The NFL Draft provided drama and intrigue. Fans instantly craved more.

NFL Network starts its coverage.

Another new network joins the fray. Although the NFL Network has provided coverage since its launch, it went on-site for the 2006 season.

Led by Eric Weinberger, the company did its own competing broadcast with ESPN, sharing the stage side-by-side. And this is no small feat. As Eric Weinberger remembers, it took several months of preparation and planning to get ready for the NFL Draft. He staffed hundreds just to produce the event.

The show goes on the road.

A scheduling conflict accidentally sparked the NFL’s next big move. Literally.

When the Radio City Music Hall booked another event in 2014, the NFL decided to abandon the Big Apple entirely. Chicago hosted the NFL Draft to rave reviews. Building on that success, this has become the league’s latest annual tradition. Philadelphia, Dallas, Nashville, Las Vegas, and Cleveland have all played host, with many more to come.


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