Yesterday, ESPN announced groundbreaking production plans for its coverage of Monday Night Football. In addition to the conventional broadcast on either mainstream ESPN, ABC or both, ESPN2 will run separate gamecasts of sorts that will feature the Manning brothers, Peyton and Eli.
The network has been chasing Peyton for years to do game commentary on its traditionally formatted broadcast but he’s turned down the opportunities. Now, Peyton accepted this unique role and will be joined at his broadcast hip by brother Eli.
The siblings will provide commentary from a remote location for ten of the Monday nights and will be grouped by what ESPN says will be “celebrities and iconic guests.”
Unique simultaneous broadcasts are not new to ESPN. Since 2014, the Bristolites have offered fans choices of how to watch college football’s title game and the menu of options continue to swell. They include multi audio and video channels, including representative announcers of the local teams. One of the video options has been a brick format where viewers can watch games from many angles. Other features had channels covering the refs and where coaches break down opposing strategies.
Last season’s NFL wildcard, was available in a traditional manner on ESPN and ABC, while ESPN2 had a Film Room that offered a concentrated break down of game strategy in real-time, and ESPN Deportes that aired a Spanish-language telecast.
ESPN’s release states, “Each Peyton and Eli-fronted MegaCast will be distributed on ESPN2, with potential for additional distribution on other Disney properties including ESPN+, complementing Monday Night Football’s traditional telecast, which will continue to be available on ESPN and/or ABC each week.” This will be Monday Night Football’s 51st season.
Remember too that as part of its new deal with the NFL, ESPN will have the 2026 Super Bowl which will be carried on Disney co-owned ABC Television. Expect a fairly broad menu then. Should be refreshing! The other Super Bowl networks to this point have put all their money and heart into one production.
Takeaways from this move and ESPN’s tumultuous week
- This stimulating and newsworthy Manning announcement deflects attention from the lingering and dispiriting ordeal that involves Maria Taylor, Rachel Nichols (left) and ESPN. All parties were scarred by the infighting, the two women voices and the network for how it dealt with the hair-raising episode.
- Maria’s contract ends after the NBA playoffs which could be as early as tonight if the Bucks beat the Suns and win their first championship in fifty years.
- It’s been reported that NBC Sports has an interest in signing Taylor in sufficient time to enable her to participate in the Olympic broadcasts.
- Taylor strikes me as overly aggressive. It’s fine that she wants to keep moving up. Good for her. But at what cost? Taylor seems to take unfair advantage of every opportunity, including elbowing her way through colleagues without consideration or remorse. If she had anything to do with the leak to the New York Times, even as a tacit partner, she should have been canned. Perhaps it’s why ESPN is showing tepid interest in rehiring her. If she’s signed by NBC, it will make for a warm and comfy news release by the Peacocks, a win in the diversity column. But before her seat is even warm, she’ll be thinking the Today Show. Like it or not, her history cohabitating with White colleagues is concerning. She’s gotten into a mess with Dave LaMont and Nichols in a short period of time.
- A random comment about the NBA telecasts hosted by Taylor. What’s the big deal about ESPN’s halftime show? Most of it is filled with commercials. And with four mouths to feed on the set, there’s insufficient time for any of them to get a word in edgewise.
- Happy to see that Lisa Salters will be back in saddle on the NFL sideline this fall. She was dumped unceremoniously as the lead sideliner for the NBA Finals last season. Lisa is unfailingly solid. You can count on her good work.
- By the way, who remembers this item that was shoved for the most part under the rug? In 2014, Pam Oliver (right) was unfairly demoted by Fox Sports from the number one slot on the NFL sidelines and she was replaced by Erin Andrews (left), now 43. Who raised hell then? In today’s cancel culture, Pam would be tagged as the victim and Fox would have taken a hit. But social media wasn’t as powerful then as it is now. Oliver, Black and a real pro, had to take a backseat to the slick Andrews. Oliver, 60. still graces the airwaves on Fox’ NFL number two team.
- Back to the NFL. Steve Levy, Brian Griese and Louis Riddick will have the pulpit again on the mainstream Monday Night telecasts. Will there be changes though down the road? Stay tuned.
- What does the creative Manning announcement say about the value of traditional play-by-play? Not much! It appears that there will be no play-by-play voice presiding over the alternative broadcast. So how long will it take before play-by-players work for a dollar a holler? Is that where TV is going? Most of the basic info is visible on the screen in the score-bug; time of game remaining, score, down and distance. It’ll be curious to see what percentage of the MNF audience will migrate to the Mannings on ESPN2. ESPN rarely breaks out the audience split among the platforms that makes up its family of networks.
- Now, to the future of Al Michaels, 76. Unlike other voices in their seventies, Michaels has all his wits. This is his last season on NBC. If ESPN hires him, he would do another Super Bowl in February, 2026. But that would take a large investment and a change of direction by the Bristolites. The Mannings aren’t coming cheap.
- But there’s more talk about Al joining Amazon in a combo deal. Word is that Amazon will have NBC produce its NFL telecasts beginning in 2022. This could allow Michaels to do Prime’s Thursday Night package, but hardly the plum of the league’s schedule on Sunday and Monday nights. Yet it might afford Uncle Al a playoff game or two on NBC. I wonder why Michaels, the Voice of NFL Primetime for 35 years, would play second fiddle to Tirico? Well, as good as Michaels still is, network opportunities fade when you’re late in your seventies. And ESPN’s Manning move might strongly suggest that the networks are devaluing the play-by-play role?
- Then there’s the loquaciously overbearing cat at ESPN, named Kirk Herbstreit. He set his goal, making it clear that he’d like an NFL assignment. Chris Fowler and he are likely to get some work this season when there are conflicts or doubleheaders. What happens next year on ESPN’s mainstream broadcast of Monday Night Football will be interesting. It seems the likable Steve Levy has to keep looking over both his shoulders>
- And finally, while I’m at it, one more desultory comment. Why in the world is Sean McDonough not at the top of the chart, doing ESPN’s college football? Let me check with Siri! Jus did, she has no clue.