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Monday Night Football Audience Continues Year Over Year Growth

“One factor that ESPN didn’t have last year that is helping them in 2021 is the Manningcast.”

Russ Heltman

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Courtesy: ESPN

The national NFL audience can’t get enough of ESPN’s Monday Night Football. Year-over-year numbers went up again this week for the network’s premier football property.

The battle between Sean McVay’s Los Angeles Rams and Kyle Shanahan’s San Francisco 49ers was the network’s second-most-watched Week 10 game since 2012, with 12.3 million viewers across all platforms.

Week 10 represented the eighth consecutive week of year-over-year growth (3% increase from 2020 Week 10). The property’s ratings as a whole are up 15% from 2020 and 7% from 2019. 

NFL fans are coming back to support the league in force after a multitude of factors kept them away from their TVs in 2020. The pandemic played a role, as did the limited number of fans attending each game. No one has been able to succinctly nail down why numbers were so down across all sports in 2020. 

One factor that ESPN didn’t have last year that is helping them in 2021 is the Manningcast. Peyton and Eli are a roaring success with their version of Monday Night Football airing on ESPN2.

Ratings were down a bit for the Monday night Manning telecast this week, but they seem to be leveling out at a record-breaking median for ESPN. The brothers notched 1.554 million viewers in their first game where they didn’t interview any active NFL players. The Manningcast has delivered the five most-watched alternate telecasts in ESPN history since the network debuted them in 2014.

Peyton and Eli caught wind of the Manningcast curse and tried to throw it off-kilter, at least for one week. Every active NFL player to appear on the Manningcast has lost their following game.

“If somebody at ESPN said well the Madden curse, players kept doing it no matter what,” Peyton described on The Steam Room podcast. I said that’s because they were getting paid. If you get paid, you don’t care about a curse. Last time I checked, we are not paying anyone to come on the show. Obviously, I hope it is not true. Right now, it is what it is.”

We’ll find out if NFL players are returning to the show when Omaha Productions unveils the next guest list.

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Stephen A. Smith and Malika Andrews Get Heated Over Ime Udoka Coverage

“Excuse me, excuse me, excuse me, I listened to you,” Smith interjected, “you’re the one telling me to stop on my show. It ain’t happening.”

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Stephen A. Smith, Malika Andrews

On Friday’s First Take, Stephen A. Smith continued his stance regarding the public leaking of information surrounding Celtics’ Head Coach Ime Udoka relationship with a team staffer. He also went further by sharing his dismay that Udoka was seemingly the only person punished for the violation of company policy.

“Only he is in violation of the company policy?” Smith asked. “The woman who elected to have a consensual relationship with him is not in violation?” 

Before the end of the show, ESPN NBA Today host Malika Andrews called in the program and wanted to address Smith’s comments.

“Stephen A., with all do respect, this is not about pointing the finger. Stop,” Andrews said. “The fact that we are sitting here debating whether somebody else should have been suspended or not, we are not here, Stephen A., to further blame women.”

Smith would replay saying that his intention was not blame anyone outside of the Celtics coach.

“First of all, let me be very clear, I don’t appreciate where you’re going with that, I’m not blaming anybody but Ime Udoka,” Smith stated. “The fact of the matter is, he deserves to be fired if they were going to fire him. If you’re not going to fire him, then don’t fire him. My issue is all of this being publicized.”

Andrews tried to jump back in for further commentary but Smith stopped that and noted he didn’t appreciate being interrupted on “my show”.

“Excuse me, excuse me, excuse me, I listened to you,” Smith interjected, “you’re the one telling me to stop on my show. It ain’t happening.”

Andrews did thank Smith for clarifying his stance at the end of the segment. ESPN has removed access to the video from its YouTube channel by making it private.

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Rich Eisen on Tom Brady Joining FOX: ‘I Gotta See It to Believe It’

“I think what Peyton Manning has done with his post-playing career is more of a blueprint that I would think Brady would follow.”

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Is 2023 the year we see Tom Brady in the broadcast booth for FOX? Rich Eisen isn’t so sure.

“I still gotta see it to believe it, I’ll be honest with you, man. I know it’s a great chunk of change and it’s a lot of money. I don’t know,” the NFL Network icon said on the most recent edition of the Sports Illustrated Media Podcast.

Tom Brady has taken his foot off the gas in 2022 in a more public way than fans are used to. He voluntarily missed eleven days of training camp and has announced that he will not be available to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Wednesdays during the season.

Eisen says if Brady is looking for a less demanding career, broadcasting isn’t the best option.

“It is a lot of work. And I’m not saying Brady’s not up for it, but if he’s been grinding for 23, 24 years, it’s still a grind in its own way.”

FOX signed Brady to a ten-year deal reportedly worth $375 million to start after he retires. He will be in the network’s top broadcast booth and also serve as an ambassador for the network’s coverage of the NFL.

Eisen says there is a much better model for Brady’s media career in his old rival Peyton Manning.

“I think what Peyton Manning has done with his post-playing career is more of a blueprint that I would think Brady would follow,” Eisen said. “Peyton Manning could be making that much money in the booth himself, right? Instead, he’s got his own production company and he’s doing the games, but not all of them, only 10 of them. And he’s doing them from his basement and he’s got the rights to the games!”

He added that Tom Brady “write his own ticket like that” if he chose to do something similar to what Manning has done with Omaha Productions.

Brady has not had much to say about his deal with FOX since the news became public. In June, he told Dan Patrick that he knows his first season in the booth will come with a lot of growing pains.

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Heidi Watney Understands AppleTV+ Criticism

“I worked for a RSN. I did games with Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy for 4 years in Boston and I was always mad when we didn’t get to do a big marquee game.”

Ricky Keeler

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As AppleTV+ begins preparation for their broadcast of Yankees and Red Sox Friday, Heidi Watney is understand of some critiques of the streaming platform during a momentous occasion.

Watney along with Stephen Nelson, Hunter Pence, and Katie Nolan, will broadcast the game for AppleTV+ as Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge chases the franchise and American League home run record. Watney was a guest on The Dan Graca Show on ESPN New York Thursday night and she said she will be reporting on the early portion of the game from a unique spot in Yankee Stadium.

“We are going to be out there for the start of the game. The plan is for me to be out there with the Bleacher Creatures and do roll call, which was in the plans already before even this was going to happen,” said Watney.

As Watney said, this plan was already put in place before Judge had a chance on the record. However, she says the goal of these Apple TV+ broadcasts is to bring fans inside the ballpark, which could be special depending on whether or not a home run is hit on Friday.

“That’s the great part about these Apple broadcasts. They are young, fresh, hip, and we want to bring old fans and new fans into the stands, show them the experience of being at the ballpark and that’s a big part of my role. If Aaron wants to hit one in his first AB right to me, I’m going to be ready for it.”

Watney has experience working at a regional sports network (RSN) when she was at NESN (2008-2011), so she understands why fans would be upset that the local announcers might not get to call the historic moment. However, she says the Apple TV broadcast makes a point to highlight the local broadcasters who are with the team on a daily basis.

“I get you want to just be able to turn on your TV and go to your local station that you are used to going to.

“I worked for a RSN. I did games with Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy for 4 years in Boston and I was always mad when we didn’t get to do a big marquee game. ‘I do 150 games a year and you are going to take this good one?’ So, I get the other side of the coin. It’s an exciting thing for us and an exciting thing for baseball to get to hear other voices as well and get to hear a different take on the game.

“That’s one of the things I think we do well on our broadcast is to give credit to the folks who are calling 150 of the 162 games a year. I rely on a lot of those people. I texted Meredith Marakovits earlier this week. It’s all one big family. Baseball is one big happy family.”

As many have pointed out, it is free to make an Apple TV account to watch the game, but it won’t stop the criticism from many about streaming games in general. However, Watney pays no mind to the criticism that the broadcast receives.

“Especially this week with the history on the line, there’s a lot of people that are like I’m not going to be able to watch this? Yes, you are. But, like anything in life that’s worth doing anything, it might take a little extra work and when I say a little, I mean a little bit of extra work…Anything that’s new is going to be something that’s different for people. I don’t think streaming is all that new. I just don’t listen to that kind of criticism because you can get it for free.”

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